All vessels, regardless of length, are required to comply with federal and state laws regarding boating safety equipment. The specific equipment needed varies depending on the length of the boat. However, this article focuses on providing the minimum federal boat safety equipment requirements as directed and enforced by the US Coast Guard for vessels under 40 feet in length. Some states and localities have additional boat safety requirements, so always stay abreast of any mandates specific to your area.
When accidents happen while boating, it can take longer for help to arrive, the only things you have to stay safe are the items you carry within your boat until it does.
Why Should Boaters Follow These Boat Safety Regulations?
Boating on various waterways is similar to automobiles out on the roads and highways—safety devices are designed to keep people safe. Thousands of accidents occur, many of which have a high probability of injury and a substantial number of cases resulting in death.
Specifically, in 2020 the Coast Guard counted 5,265 recreational boating accidents resulting in 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries, and approximately $62.5 million of property damage. Where the cause of death was known, 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.
Since most accidents occur unexpectedly, there may not be sufficient time to put on a life jacket, especially when stowed away in a locker. In cases where a person is thrown overboard, it is harder than you think to get them back on board, which can be assisted with proper equipment. Always be sure personal floatation devices (PFDs) are in good and serviceable condition. For extra protection, equip your PFDs with a whistle and emergency light.