Life jackets are a necessity on every boating excursion

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If you go out boating, it’s crucial to wear a life jacket. No how much you trust the skills of the person operating the boat or how experienced you are as a swimmer, you never know what can happen when you’re out on the water.

What is safe and what is required by state law, however, are two different things.

What does Florida law require?

Florida law requires boats to be equipped with enough approved personal flotation devices (PFD) for each person on board. The only ones legally required to wear them, however, are children under six when they’re on a vessel under 26 feet long.

The PFDs on board must be the appropriate size for the passengers. For example, if there are six adults on board but three adult-sized and three child-size PFDs, that’s not sufficient. If children are on board, they can’t be expected to wear an adult size PFD that they could slip out of.

Even people who know how to swim can drown

If you don’t think a person who knows how to swim should still wear a life jacket, it might help to hear about Naya Rivera. The actress, who was one of the stars of the popular TV show Glee, drowned in 2020 while out for a day of boating on a lake near Los Angeles with her young son. The last time she was seen alive was when she returned to the water after putting her son on the boat following a swim.

The person who rented her the boat said she had declined a PFD for herself, but he put it on the boat anyway. She wasn’t wearing it when she drowned. It was believed she became disoriented in the water as a result of vertigo and/or prescription medication. Experienced swimmers can also drown for other reasons – for example, if they hit their head as they fall in the water or have consumed alcohol.

If you’re invited out on a boat, make sure there is a PFD on board that fits you properly – and then wear it. While a PFD can prevent drowning, however, it can’t prevent injuries caused by drunk, reckless or inexperienced boaters (either on your boat or someone else’s). If you are injured, make sure you seek the compensation you need for medical care and other costs.


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