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Life jacket rules
All 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:
(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.