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Life Jacket
Broad Overview of State Requirements for Life Jackets

Photo Credit: National Safe Boating Council

To learn more about a specific state’s life jacket requirement, or the state boating agency for the boating destination, please visit the National Association of Boating Law Administration’s database of state boating contacts.

For anyone on board a personal watercraft (PWC or “jet ski”) or anyone being towed:

  • All must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

For a boat less than 16 feet long (or a canoe or a kayak of any length):

  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket carried for each person on board. If stored, these life jackets must be readily available (easy to get to), and a boater must show passengers the location of life jackets and other safety equipment.
  • Some state laws vary but it is always safe to assume and a smart move no matter what the age, that on recreational boats underway, children under 13 years old must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket unless they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. For more information, please check with local Marine Law Enforcement Authorities.

For a boat 16 feet or longer, a boater must carry a life jacket for each passenger:

  • The same requirements as above and one immediately accessible (easy-to-reach) Type IV device designed for throwing – such as a ring, cushion or horseshoe buoy for each boat.



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