Did you know that Florida has the unfortunate distinction of being the national leader in annual boating fatalities? A majority of fatalities every year are boaters that are reported swimmers who fall overboard and drown. These deaths can be easily prevented by wearing a lifejacket. Wearing a lifejacket can mean the difference between a fun day on our Gulf or Bay waters and becoming a statistic. Don’t believe it could happen to you? It happens in Florida to an average of one person each week who never thought it could happen to them either.
Common Misconceptions Associated with Life Jacket Wear
I’m a great swimmer! Why would I need to bother with a life jacket?
Even the greatest swimmers aren’t always ready to be thrown overboard and a quick look at boating safety statistics make that quite evident. Typically, over half of Florida’s boating fatalities each year are due to falls overboard and boaters entering the water unprepared.
I’m not a kid; I’m an experienced boater. I know what I’m doing.
Age and experience don’t float. They also are not good indicators of whether you would survive an unexpected fall overboard. On average about one half to two thirds of Florida’s annual boating fatalities are men over the age of 30 with over 100 hours of experience on the water.
It is just too hot out to wear something so bulky and uncomfortable! (Not to mention what it will do to my tan lines.)
The availability of inflatable life jackets has made wearing a lifejacket more comfortable as they are less bulky and constrictive. An inflatable life jacket has twice the buoyancy of a traditional orange horseshoe life jacket and is less than half the size! The biggest problem with inflatable jackets is forgetting that you are wearing them in the first place.
Who will notice if I wear a life jacket?
Everyone will notice when you are not around because you didn’t wear it. Your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will follow the example you set whether it is good or bad.
The state of Florida wants to increase the number of recreational boaters who consistently wear a life jacket while on the water and offer solutions for more comfortable and convenient life jacket options as well.
Next time you visit a local tackle shop or sporting goods store, check out the lifejacket aisle. You’ll find not only a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, but some are built right into fishing vests or hunter coats. Others are inflatable and as compact as a scarf or fanny pack until they hit water, when they automatically fill with air. There’s no excuse not to wear a lifejacket on the water.
Also, find one with pockets—one for your phone, one for your snacks. This will make life jackets also convenient.
For more on lifejackets, including where to get them and more, check out Wear it Florida at MyFWC.com/boating/safety-education/wear-it-florida or visit uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/life-jacket-wear-wearing-your-life-jacket.php.
Make yourself a good example by practicing safe boating habits—WEAR IT.