KINGMAN - Life jackets or personal flotation devices can and do save lives every year.
Arizona has some strict laws when it comes to the use of personal flotation devices while on a watercraft, including boats and personal watercraft (PWC).
Whether you are in a boat, canoe or kayak, riding a PWC or jet ski, or being towed by a boat while water skiing or using another device, such as a knee board, you are required to have a life jacket available. In some cases, you are required to wear them.
According to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, "All vessels, except sailboats and certain racing shells or rowing sculls, must have at least one wearable Type I, II, III or V life jacket (PFD) that is U.S. Coast Guard approved and of the proper size for each person on board."
Life jackets also must be readily accessible, in good and serviceable condition, and properly sized for the intended wearer to comply with the law.
For example, it is not legal to have adult PFD for young children. Before you go out on the water, make sure that every person tries on a PFD to make sure it fits. This means that all the fasteners and closures are secured, and the vest fits tight.
Vessels that are 16 feet or longer, except canoes and kayaks, also must have a Type IV USCG approved throwable flotation device on board and readily accessible.
There are also special regulations for children 12 years and younger. They must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, III all the time the vessel is off shore. The child also must be wearing a life jacket that is designed to be worn according to the manufacturers recommended use and it must fit the child properly.
People who ride on personal watercraft such as Jet Skis or WaveRunners must also wear an USCG approved Type I, II, III PFD with all fasteners and closures secured. The jacket must be adjusted for a snug fit.
The purpose for this requirement is simple. If you are in an accident and are knocked unconscious, if the PFD is not a snug fit you could slip out of it. In other words, it will not prevent you from drowning.
Rules for those being towed by a boat while water skiing or on devices such as knee boards are also required to have on a PFD or buoyant belt. Game and Fish advises that some buoyant belts are not approved by the USCG, so make sure you check them out before purchasing.
One thing to note is that PFDs must be readily accessible. That means they can't be stored in areas that are hard to reach, especially in case of an emergency.
If your watercraft is being inspected by a law enforcement officer, and you as the boat operator don't have a clue where the PFD's are located, or they are buried under a deck and it takes you 10 minutes to get them out, then you might have an issue.
PFDs must be serviceable, which means no tears or holes in them. If they show signs of being in disrepair, or are rotten, they must be replaced.
Safety equipment is one area where a boater should not scrimp. Buy the good stuff.
Safety equipment should be checked each time before a boater goes out on the water. An emergency is not the time to find out that you've left your PFDs on shore or back at the house.