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Personal Flotation Device on boat

What You Should Know About Personal Flotation Devices

Florida is a state that’s big on water sports. There are all types of recreational water vehicles on Florida’s waterways every day. Unfortunately, Florida is also one of the top states for water-related accidents and deaths. The majority of deaths on our waters are drownings. Many of these drownings could be prevented by the proper use of personal flotation devices.

Types of Personal Flotation Devices

The United States Coast Guard has eliminated the former PFD categories, due to a decade-old study indicating people just didn’t understand them.  The new (since 2014) Coast Guard definitions, according to the American Sailing Association’s web site, are as follows:

  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – a device that is USCG-approved under the law.
  • Throwable PFD – A PFD that is intended to be thrown to a person in the water.
  • Wearable PFD – a PFD that is intended to be worn or attached to the body.

The overarching term for anything that will keep a person afloat in the water and is approved by the Coast Guard’s new guidelines is “Personal Flotational Device.” Under that umbrella are wearable and throwable PDFs.

Wearable Personal Flotation Devices

Life jackets made for open water are larger and have more buoyancy than the standard life jacket. When the chances of being rescued quickly are lower or the person is unconscious, these life jackets are designed to keep a person afloat and face-up for a longer period of time. This type is also bulkier than other lifejackets, and provide 22 pounds of buoyancy.

Most people are familiar with “classic” lifejackets. These personal flotation devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate children and adults. This industry standard is found on most recreational boats. The 15.5 pounds of buoyancy they provide can keep an unconscious person face-up in the water. These are designed for use on inland waters or where the shoreline is relatively close and the water is calm. They are used in areas where a rescue is most likely to be fast.

Throwable PFDs

There are several types of these PFDs created to assist, but not substitute for wearable personal flotation devices. They are also used to help a victim who is not wearing a lifejacket or other PFD. Items in this class include boat cushions, ring buoys, horseshoe buoys, and other devices. They can be used in an emergency and need to be readily accessible to be thrown in the water near the person being rescued. They are not designed for people who don’t know how to swim, victims who are unconscious or children.

Personal Flotation Devices Are Not an Option

PFDs are required on all recreational boats. Even excellent swimmers are required to have a PFD available. How many lifejackets you will need to have on board depends on how many passengers are on the vessel. It also depends upon the size of the boat and the activities people will be engaged in. Kids 13 years of age and under are required to wear lifejackets at all times. These requirements are set by the US Coast Guard. If your vessel is longer than 16 feet, you will need to have at least one throwable PFD on board.

Enjoy your time on the water, and be safe. The law offices of Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., are conveniently located in the southwest Florida communities of Englewood, North Port, and Port Charlotte. We specialize in personal injury law and are ready to help you with your personal injury case. Call us at (941) 960-7225 and schedule an appointment for a complimentary consultation. We are the lawyers who care.

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