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June 12, 2008

No excuse not to wear a life jacket on the water

This year is shaping up to be a deadly one on South Carolina waters. As of mid-June this year there have been 13 boating fatalities. This compares to a total of 16 boating fatalities in 2007.

"We consider twelve of the thirteen fatal fatalities so far this year as preventable because people were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD)," says Col. Alvin Taylor, head of S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement. "Put on your life jacket before you board your boat and don't take it off until the voyage is over, because the bottom line is PFDs save lives." The National Safe Boating Council estimates 90 percent of all drownings are the result of a person not wearing a life jacket or PFD.

Boating accidents can and often do occur at terrifying speeds.  Finding your PFD and attempting to put it on after the accident is almost impossible. Life jackets are of little use if you are not wearing them and save lives only if they are worn. PFDs need to be readily accessible and are not classified as such if stowed in compartments or under equipment. This can result in a citation from DNR Law Enforcement or the U.S. Coast Guard.

The boat operator is responsible for having a proper fitting U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for all passengers on board. Throwable devices, such as flotation cushions, are required in addition to wearable devices on boats 16 feet and longer. Life jackets must be serviceable without tears, holes or other damage or wear that would decrease the effectiveness of the device.

Any person younger than 12 years old, in a boat less than 16 feet long, must wear a PFD. It is especially important to check the size and fit of life jacket for children.

Anyone on a personal watercraft, which includes Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, WaveRunners and others, must also wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation device.

Find out more about PFDs and take a free DNR boating course.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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