Summer is here, which means that many of you will be enjoying time in the open waters aboard a boat. But while sailing can be a lot of fun, any boating accident lawyer can tell you that the activity does not come without its share of risks. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, but one of the easiest ways to increase your safety is to wear a life jacket. Yet, not many boaters are aware of the fact that there are several different kinds of life jackets. So, how exactly do you determine which life jacket is best for you and your passengers? Here are a few tips that can help.
The kind of life jackets that you’ll need for your boat and the number of life jackets that you should purchase will depend on your boat’s size and on the number of people on board your boat. According to Boatsafe.com, if your boat is 16 feet or longer, you’ll also need to have a throwable personal floatation device on board in order to satisfy Coast Guard regulations.
Personal flotation devices are classed into five main categories (Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, and Type V). Type I, II, and III are the most common wearable flotation devices worn by recreational boaters. Type IV flotation devices are the kind that can be thrown to a person in the water in a rescue situation. One example of a Type IV device is a life ring or cushion. Type V flotation devices are approved for continuous wear and for specific activities, yet they must be used according to label or they won’t necessarily work effectively.
When deciding what kind of floatation device to purchase for your passengers and for yourself, as a general rule, the lower the number categorization floatation device the better performing the device will be. A Type I device will generally perform better than a Type III device.
Type I devices are best for open water scenarios where first aid may be slow in arriving. This device will turn most unconscious wearers face up in the water. A Type II device should best be used near the shore or where faster rescue is likely. This device may not turn all unconscious wearers face up in particularly rough water. A Type III device, while more comfortable for long-term or continuous wear, won’t turn an unconscious person face-up in the water. It is for use in inland water situations where fast rescues are likely.
Sizing is also an important consideration to take into account when choosing a personal flotation device. The focus should be on chest size instead of weight. A personal flotation device should ideally be snug, and not chafe the wearer. At the same time, an individual should not be able to easily pull off a tightened floatation device like a sweater or t-shirt. The best way to determine a good fit is to go to the store and to try on a few devices before making a decision. Women should also choose personal flotation devices designed for women as the cut of these life jackets will be more form-fitting.
Still unsure as to which life jacket you should get? Before making a purchase, spend some time trying out different life jackets at a store and perform some of the typical motions and movements you would likely expect while on the boat.
There are personal floatation devices out there for everyone. According to REI, there are even life jackets for dogs. At the end of the day, when making decisions about what life jackets to buy, Coast Guard regulations, state regulations, and fitting should be taken into account. Yet, regardless of the type or cost of device you purchase, your life jacket will be useless if you don’t choose to wear it. It’s important to always wear your floatation device when heading out in open waters and always carry spare life jackets for those who will be joining you.