Coast Guard to Boating Public: It is Best to Wear Your Vest

ST. LOUIS – Spring brings the beginning of the boating season and a reminder from the Coast Guard that boaters are significantly safer in and around the water while wearing lifejackets.

Federal Law dictates that all recreational vessels must carry one wearable lifejacket for each person aboard, and any boat 16 feet and longer, with the exception of canoes and kayaks, must also carry one throwable Type IV device.

The Coast Guard encourages boaters to go a step further and wear lifejackets at all times when a vessel is underway. Many boating accidents occur on relatively nice days with calm weather and often without enough time to don a lifejacket before entering the water. Imagine trying to put a seatbelt on when you realize you are going to be involved in a car accident. A lifejacket should be treated the same way; it can save your life, but only if you wear it.


Lifejackets are available in a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes and comfort levels. Many are thin and flexible, while others are built into fishing and hunting vests. Some are inflatable and are as compact as scarfs or fanny packs. Once they hit water, they automatically fill with air. If boaters enter the water unexpectedly, they are much more likely to survive if they are wearing their life vests.

Things to Know:

  • The best lifejacket is the one you will wear.
  • Certain lifejackets are designed to keep your head above water and help you remain in a position that permits proper breathing.
  • Some styles of lifejackets are not intended for weak or non-swimmers (read the label and be honest).
  • To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a recreational vessel must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejacket for each person aboard.
  • When worn correctly, a lifejacket will fit snugly and will not rise above the wearer’s chin or ears while in the water.
  • Most adults only need 7 to 12 pounds of buoyancy (31 to 53 Newton) to keep their heads above water.

For boaters residing or traveling in the Sector Upper Mississippi River area: If anyone requires search and rescue assistance on the navigable waterways, contact Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi Rivers’ 24 hour Command Center at 314-269-2332 or reach them on VHF-16 on a maritime radio.


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