Life Jacket Rules

life jackets icon

lifejacket - wear it MichiganAll vessels must be equipped with USCG–approved personal flotation devices (PFDs), also known as life jackets. The quantity and type depend on the length of your vessel and the number of people on board and/or being towed.

Michigan Life Jacket Laws:

  • All vessels must be equipped with a PFD for each person on board or being towed.
  • Michigan law requires all children under 6 years of age to wear a USCG–approved Type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway.
  • The USCG requires that all vessels have at least one Type I, II, or III PFD that is USCG–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
  • Michigan’s PFD law permits a vessel that is less than 16 feet long, or is a canoe or kayak, to choose to have either a wearable PFD (Type I, II, or III) or a throwable PFD (Type IV) for each person on board.
  • In addition to the above requirements, one USCG–approved throwable device must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer and be readily accessible.
  • Each person riding on a PWC or being towed behind a PWC or other vessel must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on PWC or while being towed behind PWC or other vessels.
  • All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.

Types of life jackets:

TYPE I
(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.

Disadvantages: Bulky.

Sizes: Two sizes to fit most children and adults.

See more information about Type I PFDs

TYPE II
(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.

See more information about Type II PFDs

TYPE III
(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.

See more information about Type III PFDs

TYPE IV
(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.

See more information about Type IV PFDs