Life jackets: They only work if you wear them
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
Last year, 79 people died in boating accidents in Florida; 49 of
"If people would simply wear life jackets, many lives would be
saved each year," said Maj. Paul Ouellette, regional commander for
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC)
The law states that there must be one properly fitted, U.S.
Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board the
vessel, and that children under the age of 6 must be wearing
Simply having life jackets on board is not enough. FWC officers
who perform safety checks on vessels often find them in compliance
in the strict sense of the word, but many times the life jackets
are not easily accessible. Instead, they are stowed in a
compartment and require several steps to retrieve. In fact,
sometimes they are still neatly wrapped in the original plastic
wrap from the manufacturer.
"In an emergency, there is usually no time to go digging around
for a life jacket, let alone unwrapping it and then trying to
adjust it so it doesn't fall off in the water," said Joy Hill,
public information coordinator for the FWC's Northeast Region.
"Sinking boats usually go down fast, and people who have been
ejected often end up unconscious, so it's extremely important that
people wear the life jacket or, at the very least, have it readily
Many people complain that wearing a life jacket is hot and
cumbersome, but with the U.S. Coast Guard-approved inflatable life
jackets, that argument is no longer valid.
"Some of the life jackets in the past were bulky and
uncomfortable, but with the inflatable life jackets available
today, that's not the situation," said Ouellette. "The lightweight
harness fits around your neck and upper body, and you don't even
know it's there. Some newly approved life jackets are in the form
of a belt pack, and both types are available in manual and
If a person goes overboard, the automatic-inflatable types
inflate instantly without the wearer having to do anything. The
manual-inflate types have an easy access cord that the wearer must
pull for it to inflate.
Prices for the new generation inflatable life jackets begin
around $69, which is a bit more costly than the older, collar
styles, but a small price to pay to save a life.