SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) kicks off the official boating season in California in coordination with National Safe Boating Week held May 20–26, 2023. DBW encourages all boaters and outdoor enthusiasts to brush up on boating safety skills and prepare for the boating season. This observance week is a global awareness effort that encourages boaters to make the most of their boating adventure by being responsible. One of the important safety measures to take while boating is wearing life jackets.
With the weather warming up, the snow melting from this year’s historic snowpack and boaters heading out to the water, it is crucial that life jackets are worn at all times while boating,” said DBW’s Deputy Director Ramona Fernandez. “Just like you wear your seatbelt in the car, wearing a life jacket while boating is one layer of prevention to avoid unnecessary tragedy.”
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2021 and that 83% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
Newer styles of life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish compared to the bulky, orange life jackets that boaters used to know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, that are much cooler in the warmer weather and allow mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting.
Here are some helpful tips for selecting and maintaining life jackets:
- U.S. Coast Guard–Approved: Wear only U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets while boating. All life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard will have an approval number located on the inside label.
- Proper Fit: Life jackets are sized by weight and chest measurements. An adult-sized life jacket is not suitable for a child, as the life jacket may be too large and may ride up around their face or even slip off. Always check the fit of the child’s life jacket before entering the water. A life jacket too small for the wearer may not keep them afloat.
- Intended Boating Activity: Make sure that the life jacket is approved for the specific boating activity in which you plan to participate.
- Good Condition: Check the life jacket before use to ensure it is in good condition. Replace a life jacket that has faded labels, rips, tears, mildew, loose or missing straps, frayed webbing or broken zippers or buckles. If an inflatable life jacket is used, check recommendations from the manufacturer on the CO2 canister and arming mechanism, and replace as necessary.
- Children and Life Jackets: Under California law, every child under 13 years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the conditions and the activity. Many cities and counties also have regulations about children and youth life jacket requirements along rivers and lakes. Always check with local managers about life jacket rules.
- Life Jacket Loaner Program: DBW partners with local agencies to ensure boaters have access to life jackets. A life jacket can be borrowed from more than 100 life jacket loaner stations throughout the state. View life jacket loaner stations.
When heading to California’s waterways this Memorial Day weekend and summer season, make sure to wear a properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. There are also more than 100 life jacket loaner stations throughout the state.