Life Jacket Rules
Life Jackets Float. You Don't! Wear It!
Boating accident statistics compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard indicate that 90 percent of the people who drown in a boating or water accident would be alive today if they had been wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.
Who must wear a PFD (life jacket)?
- Children less than 6 years of age must wear a Type I or Type II PFD when riding in the open deck area of a boat.
- Each person operating, riding on or being towed behind a personal watercraft (jet ski) must wear a Type I, Type II or Type III PFD (that is not an inflatable device).
- Each person less than 12 years of age riding or being towed, behind a personal watercraft (jet ski) must wear a Type I or Type II PFD.
What type of PFD do I need to carry on my boat in Michigan?
Vessels less than 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or IV PFD for each person on board.
The U.S. Guard requires all vessels less than 16 feet, used on the Great Lakes or connecting waterways, to carry one approved Type I, II, or III device for each person on board.
Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, or III for each person on board must carry one type IV. (Canoes and kayaks over 16 feet are exempt from the Type IV requirement.)
(Off-Shore Life Jacket) (22 lbs. Buoyancy) Best for open, rough or remote water where rescue may be slow in coming.
Advantages: Turns most unconscious wearers face-up in water. Highly visible color. Floats the person the best.
Sizes: Two sizes to fit most children and adults.
(Near-Shore Buoyant Vest) (15.5 lbs. Buoyancy) Good for calm, inland water or where there is good chance of fast rescue.
Advantages: Turns some unconscious wearers face-up in water. Less bulky, more comfortable than Type I PFD. Inexpensive.
Disadvantages: Not for long hours in the water. Will not turn some unconscious wearers face-up in water.
Sizes: Infant, Child Small, Child Medium, Adult.
(Flotation Aid) (15.5 lbs. Buoyancy) Good for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of fast rescue.
Advantages: Generally the most comfortable type for continuous wear. Freedom of movement for most active water sports. Available in many styles. Freedom of movement for water-skiing, small boat, sailing, fishing, etc.
Disadvantages: Wearer may have to tilt head back to avoid going facedown. In rough water, a wearer's face may often be covered by waves. Not for extended survival in rough water.
(Throwable Device) For calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always nearby.
Advantages: Can be thrown to someone. Good back-up wearable PFDs. Some can be used as a seat cushion.
Kinds: Cushions, Rings and Horseshoe buoys.
Disadvantages: Not for unconscious persons. Nor for non-swimmers or children. Not for many hours in rough water.
Note: All PFDs must be ready at hand and not enclosed in plastic bags or other containers.