How to Choose a Life Jacket

Almost 80 percent of all boating-related deaths occur by drowning. Wearing a life jacket – also called a personal flotation device, or PFD – when out on the water could keep you from becoming a statistic

1) Purchase the bulky off-shore life jacket for greatest buoyancy – at the expense of some comfort.

2) Choose the near-shore buoyancy vest if you will be on calmer, inland waters.

3) Consider buying a flotation aid if you will be on protected waters where a quicker rescue is assured. They allow some movement and are somewhat more comfortable than the other jackets.

4) Opt for one of several types of floatable life jackets, which are easy to wear and inflatable. Also called special-use devices, each is designed for a specific water activity, such as sailboarding, and is worn at all times.

5) Purchase a throwable device as an extra safety measure. They are literally thrown to and held onto by someone who has fallen overboard until he or she is rescued.

Extra tips:

* Know where life jackets are stored on the boat.

* The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requires that everyone on a boat less than 16 feet long have a jacket; on any boat longer than 16 feet, you must also have one extra jacket on board.

* Further regulations regarding life jacket use vary by state; for more details, call the USCG at (800) 368-5647

* Make sure that the life jacket is USCG-approved.

* Regardless of regulations, when out on the water in a boat, people who require (or could require) assistance, such as children and nonswimmers, should wear life jackets at all times.

* Let your life jacket drip-dry thoroughly, then store in a well-ventilated area.

* In an emergency, you could slip through a life jacket that is too large for you; try on any life jacket before purchasing it.

* Waterlogging or compression can cause jackets to lose buoyancy, rendering them useless, so inspect and test them at least twice a year.

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