Are you following Ohio’s life jacket laws? Do you know which floatation devices are most appropriate for your boat? Is everybody on your vessel prepared should an accident occur?

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning is the most common cause of death in recreational boating accidents, causing an estimated 70 percent of boating-related deaths. The majority of these deaths occur when the victim entered the water unintentionally and unexpectedly, making life jacket use a priority for boating safety.

33 CFR §175.15 requires most boats to have a certain number or type of personal flotation devices (PFDs). The law also requires children under the age of 13 on any vessel to wear a PFD unless in an enclosed cabin or below deck. Ohio law expands on these requirements.

Ohio Life Jacket Laws

The Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §1547.24 requires all children under the age of ten to wear a personal flotation device when on a vessel under 18 feet. Furthermore, ORC §1547.18 requires people riding water skis, tubes, or any other device towed by a boat to wear a personal flotation device.

Boats of various types, sizes, and purposes have unique requirements regarding PFDs. ORC §1547.25 details the requirements for PFDs, and we also included these regulations in our previous blog post on required boating safety equipment. Finally, ORC §1547.41 states riders of personal watercraft such as Jetskis must wear a PFD at all times.

Picking the Right Personal Flotation Devices

There are five different PFD classifications:

  • Type I: Offshore Life Jacket – Typically used on a commercial craft, this is a large, bulky PFD designed for use in rough waters and times when rescue may be delayed.
  • Type II: Near Shore Buoyant Vest – This is the most common life jacket, used in calm waters and near the shoreline.
  • Type III: Flotation Aid Many consider this the most comfortable life jacket type. It is ideal for calm waters.
  • Type IV: Throwable Device – This PFD is designed to be thrown to a person in the water. It is not designed to replace a wearable PFD and is intended for use in an overboard emergency.
  • Type V: Special Use Device – These PFDs can take the form of a work vest or deck suit and are designed for specific uses.

Only Type I and II devices are capable of turning an unconscious person face up in the water. Holding an unconscious person upright or face up horizontally is an important feature that helps prevent drowning.

When shopping for PFDs, make sure it has a label stating it is, “U.S. Coast Guard Approved” and includes an approval number. PFDs come in many shapes and sizes, so take the time to try on a few until you find one that fits comfortably. For children, look for PFDs that can grow with them or make sure you buy new PFDs to keep up with their height.

Flotation Devices Are No Replacement for Supervision

Flotation devices do not guarantee safety. The best way to keep safe on the water is to have everyone onboard familiar with the boating safety rules and keep an eye on each other. Children should not be unsupervised in or near the water, even when wearing a PFD.

Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault offers Ohio boaters guidance with filing a boating accident claim when serious injury or death occurs. Contact our office today to set up a free consultation: 734-922-8001.