Do you have to wear a life jacket on a boat in Florida?
It’s difficult to understate the importance of life jackets for boaters. According to a United States Coast Guard study in 2017, nearly 85 percent of drowning casualties were by individuals not wearing life jackets. While wearing life jackets is an essential practice when it comes to safe boating, it’s important to understand whether or not you are required by law to wear life jackets in Florida.
In the state of Florida, boaters are required to have a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket for each person on board. Beyond that, the life jackets must be of the right size and rating for the individuals on board, meaning a life jacket designed for a child will not toward the requirement if there are no children on the boat. Additionally, the life jackets must be in good condition and legibility display the United States Coast Guard approval number.
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While having the PFDs on board is required, the state of Florida does not require adult passengers to be wearing them at all times, although it is recommended as a precautionary measure. However, children under the age of six years old must be wearing a life jacket at all times while on a vessel less than 26 feet in length.
As an additional note, the state of Florida requires vessels longer than 16 feet in length to carry a type IV PFD, which is a throwable device intended to be thrown to someone who has gone overboard or needs help. This device must be readily available while the boat is in motion.
Lastly, if you’re taking part in any type of activities where you’re being pulled behind the boat, a PFD is required for all ages.
No matter how comfortable you are in the water, life jackets and other PFDs save lives. Before you take to the water, make sure you have the safety equipment required by the state of Florida and encourage your passengers to wear their life jackets, even when it’s not required.