Life Jackets and Active Supervision Are Essential To Boating Safety

Media Contact: Mary Colliver 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 17, 2010) −Whether it's during vacation or part of an ordinary day, boating can be fun for the entire family as long as everyone remains safe.

In 2005, 21 children ages 12 and under were killed in boating incidents. Of the children who drowned while boating in 2003, more than 60 percent were not wearing life jackets. The U.S. Coast Guard reports an estimated 85 percent of boating-related drownings could be prevented by the use of life jackets.

"On a boat, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times," said Sherri Hannan, a nurse and coordinator of Safe Kids Fayette County, led by Kentucky Children's Hospital. "Look for a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Water wings and other inflatable swimming aids such as inner tubes do not prevent drowning."

Safe Kids Fayette County recommends that children ages 14 and under wear life jackets not only on boats, but near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports.

Laws for Required Wearing of PFDs

In addition to the federal personal flotation device (PFD) carriage requirements, Kentucky has the following requirements for wearing a PFD:

  • Children under 12 years of age are required to wear a Coast Guard approved PFD at all times while underway in an open vessel or on an open deck of a vessel. Children's PFDs must be securely fastened and be size appropriate for the wearer.
  • Every person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) or being towed behind a boat or a PWC must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not intended for use while participating in tow activities or other high impact sports.

Safe Kids Fayette County urges parents and caregivers to wear life jackets on boats or other watercraft as well.

"Your children will pick up and embrace your safety habits," says Hannan.

According to a 2005 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, children are much more likely to practice safe habits when they witness similar behavior by parents and caregivers.

Safe Kids Fayette County also reminds parents and caregivers:

  • Always wear life jackets when in or around open bodies of water and on boats. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have the child make a "touchdown" signal. If the life jacket hits the child's chin or ears, the life jacket may be too big or the straps are too loose.
  • Enroll your kids in swimming lessons taught by a certified instructor, but don't assume swimming lessons or life jackets make your child "drownproof." These precautions are important, but they're no substitute for constant and active adult supervision.
  • Don't let kids operate or ride on personal watercraft (such as jet skis).
  • Never drink alcoholic beverages while boating. A large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers.
  • Nobody should swim near a dock or marina with electrical hookups or lighting. Swimmers can be electrocuted in the water and drown.
  • Make sure the boat operator has passed a boating safety course approved by the Coast Guard before letting your child and your family ride in the boat.
  • For more information about safe boat operations, go to
  • When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy, which designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a designated amount of time (e.g. 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision. To download a Water Watcher card, visit Safe Kids.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector on your motorboat to alert you to dangerous levels of exhaust fumes.
  • Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child who has fallen into water and become unconscious. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.

For more information about drowning and boating-related injuries, call Safe Kids Fayette County at 859-323-1153 or visit Safe Kids.


Page last updated: 2/4/2015 2:57:47 PM