Come on folks, how many people have to drown for everyone to begin wearing a life jacket all the time when you are on the water? Just the other day on Lake Lanier, north of Atlanta, Georgia another angler has drowned while fishing when he fell overboard. Read more about this story; follow the link below - http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2013/jan/07/lawrenceville-man-drowns-when-boat-capsizes-lake-l/
Why does this continue to happen? The National Safety Council, Inc. tells us that almost 7,000 people drown in the United States each year. This number must decrease in the near future; I am tired of seeing fishermen and outdoors people die on the water. To make this number decrease we must begin to ask others to put on his or her life jacket when they are near or on the water. For those of you that do not fish in tournaments, it is the rule that every angler in a competitive fishing event must wear a life jacket when the big motor is under power. This is a sound practice that needs to be carried over into a common sense law for all boaters.
In Georgia, for example, all vessels must have at least one USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (life jacket) for each person on board. However, Type V PFDs are acceptable only when worn and securely fastened. These types of PFDs are for specific activities. To be acceptable by the USCG, they must be used for the activity specified on the label. Varieties include fishing, kayaking, water skiing, windsurfing, hybrid vests and deck suits.
The current Georgia law requires that all children under 10 years of age wear a U.S. Coast Guard—approved PFD while on board any moving vessel. This law does not apply when the child is in a fully enclosed cabin. In response to several fatal boating accidents this past summer, the Georgia legislature and Governor are expected to introduce legislation in 2013 to establish mandatory boater education, increase the PFD mandate to any child under 13 years old and possibly Personal Water Craft (PWC) education for those who rent PWCs.
Not only is it important to wear a PFD, but I believe it is just as important to make sure your fits properly. Sizing for adults is by using your chest size, not your weight. This will help determine the correct size. For children, their weight will determine the correct size. When trying a PFD on, they should be snug and fit like a glove, yet allow you to move freely and not restrict you while casting, paddling or just playing. To get the best feel and fit, wear similar clothing when trying on a PFD. Women should consider women-specific PFDs versus unisex styles. All PFDs will have a different design and foam placement to fit the contours of the body. Foam placement has more to do with comfort than safety. The more straps a PFD has, the more adjustments can be made to customize its fit. To assure a proper fit go to a repeatable marine store and allow a properly trained assist to help you.
Types of PFDs: There are 5 categories of PFDs.
Type I: Offshore Life Jackets. These vests are geared for rough, open or remote waters where rescue may take a while. Though bulky, they have the most buoyancy, a bright color and can turn most unconscious people face up in the water.
Type II: Near-shore Vests. Made for calm inland waters, where there is a likely chance of a fast rescue is the intent of these PFDs. They will turn some unconscious wearers to the face-up position but not all of them. They are bulky, but less so than Type I.
Type III: Flotation Aids. These are suitable for most on the water activties where there is a chance for a quick rescue. They offer freedom of movement and the most comfort for continuous wear. Type IIIs are designed so wearers can put themselves in a face-up position, but they may have to tilt their head back to avoid being face down in water.
Type IV: Throwable Devices. Cushions or ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble and provide backup to a PFD. They are not for non-swimmers, rough waters or the unconscious. The USCG does not require these for canoes or kayaks.
Type V: Special-use Devices. These are specialized PFDs for specific activities. To be acceptable by the USCG, they must be used for the activity specified on the label. Varieties include fishing, kayaking, water-skiing, windsurfing, hybrid vests and deck suits.
Last week, I was given the opportunity to wear and test the new Type V Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Auto Inflatable Life Jacket. The new M.I.T. 100 with Automatic Activation is a premium product at a truly affordable price. The jacket suggested retail is $149.99 at your local Bass Pro Shops. When I put on this PFD and properly adjusted it, I was amazed at just how much freedom of movement I had casting a rod and reel, and moving around in the boat. This life jacket was so light and comfortable I had it on all day and hardly noticed it! So the acceptance of wearing a life jacket on the water all the time became more plausible!
If you don’t know your own state's regulation on life jackets and PFDs, go to the Boat U.S. web site and locate the laws specific to your state. Web page link: http://www.boatus.com/foundation/ljlp/staterequirements.asp
Please help me eliminate drowning on and near the water across the country this spring by asking others to wear their PFD. My hope is that you, and your family will never have to find out if your life jacket works when you fall into the water. Really, is $150 to much to save your own life?
About the author: Tom is a freelance outdoor writer and full time Firefighter, Paramedic/Lieutenant in Georgia for the past 28 years. He has been working and consulting in the Outdoor Industry for over 18 years and is currently creating and managing a pro fishing team, developing new products, promoting products through demonstrations, designing packaging, and he participates in different forums, radio & television shows. Tom and his wife, Kim are volunteers with Operation One Voice. They live north of Atlanta near Braselton, GA with their lab “Jake”.
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