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Life Jackets Save Lives In Florida Boat Accidents

December 1, 2009

If they were polled, most boaters and their passengers would tell you that life jackets weren’t really a necessity. After all, the majority of drownings happen way out at sea, not when people are just leisurely motoring down the canals and waterways around the state, right? Wrong! According to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association, "nine out of ten drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety, and involving boats less than 20 feet long. Most drowning victims had access to a Personal Flotation Device, but did not wear it". Still think you don’t need to wear a life jacket while boating on the Florida waterways? Consider this: 85% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.

If you haven’t taken a look at Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) lately, you’ll probably be surprise to know that they are no longer the bulky orange life vests from a decade ago. While they are still brightly colored so a rescuer can more easily spot a person floating in the water, they come in much more attractive colors than orange! Also, boaters will be happy to know that the newer PFDs are lighter weight and much more comfortable to move around in while you are wearing them.

The Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Associations says most adults need 7 to 12 pounds of bouyancy to keep their heads above water. They’ll tell you that how much ‘extra lift’ you need in water is determined by body fat and weight, lung size, clothing and water conditions (rough or calm). In general, the more physically fit you are, the more ‘lift’ you need. Many states have specific regulations regarding the type of lifejacket children must wear, so make sure you are aware of the requirements in your state before selecting a product for your child.

There are several categories of PFDs, so be sure to check the bouyancy rating when choosing a new PFD. There are jackets that have been designed for use in inland waters and those that are rated for offshore use where sea conditions can hamper a rescue. Each category has certain features that will help keep you alive, depending on the calmness of the water or the length of time that might be required for rescue if you are involved in a Florida boat accident, so it is important to choose the correct type. Some jackets will even turn an unconscious, face-down victim over in the water so they can breathe!

It is a federal law that each boat have one life jacket for each person on the boat. That means if you are planning to carry guests on board, you’ll need to be sure to carry spare PFDs.

The Coast Guard requires that:

  1. Each PFD on your boat be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible;
  2. Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.);
  3. PFD’s should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them;
  4. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one Type IV USCG-approved PFD on board and immediately available (a type IV PFD is one that can be thrown to a person in the water);
  5. Children under 6 years of age must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD at all times while on any vessel less than 26 feet in length that is underway upon Florida waters;
  6. Each person on board a Personal Water Craft (PWC), and anyone being towed behind a vessel, must wear a USCG-approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not to be worn on PWC’s or while water-skiing. 

Keep in mind, too, that Florida boat accidents can happen for any number of reasons: you can slip and fall overboard just from innattention or slipping on the deck, drinking on the boat can contribute to a fall overboard, bad weather can contribute, and being hit by another boat can cause a fall overboard. In most instances, the passenger either does not have enough time to grab a life jacket before falling overboard or is unconscious and unable to put on a life jacket, so it is important for all boating passengers to wear a PFD at all times.

The majority of us get into our cars and automatically fasten the seat belt – putting on a life jacket when stepping onto a boat should be just as automatic. Unfortunately, it’s not. In fact, more than 85% of all fatalities in Florida boat accidents are due to drowning, and the majority of those deaths could have been prevented if the victim was wearing a life jacket

For more information about claims for injuries suffered in a boat accident in Florida, contact Florida boating accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 for a free, no-obligation consultation, or email him today.

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