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Why should your kids wear a life jacket?

Is the law!  Kids 14 years of age and under on boats 19 feet or less are required to wear a Coast Guard approved and properly fitting life jacket when underway.  It is recommended that all passengers on boats wear life jackets – it can be the difference between life and death in an emergency (especially in cold water).

How to select and fit a child's life jacket

Life Jacket Loaner Stations

Find a Life Jacket Loaner Station near you!

  • PFD’s (personal flotation devices) must be Coast Guard approved, properly sized, and in good condition (no broken buckles, torn straps, rips, tears, etc). They must also be within easy reach.
  • Children 14 and under must wear an approved life jacket when they are aboard a boat 19 feet in length or less whenever the boat is underway or under power. This applies to manually propelled boats such as canoes and rafts in addition to powerboats, sailboats, personal watercraft (jet skis) and fishing float tubes.
  • Regardless of age, you must wear a personal flotation device (PFD) aboard a personal watercraft (jet ski) and when being pulled behind a vessel (I.e. - waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, etc.)
  • The size of the boat determines the specific design types and quantities of PFDs required:
  • Boats less than 16 feet long, as well as canoes and kayaks of any length, must have at least one (1) Type I, Type II, or Type III PFD for each person on board. A Type IV cushion or ring buoy will not meet this requirement.
  • Boats 16 feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks of any length) must also carry a Type IV PFD (ring or cushion buoy).
  • A Type V is a special purpose PFD that may be used in place of a Type I, II, or III if listed on the label as approved for the type of boating the boater is doing, such as whitewater rafting.
  • Exemptions: Seaplanes, sailboards, and certain racing boats are exempt from these PFD requirements. Fly fishing float tubes do not require a PFD on lakes less than 200 surface acres. Fly fishing pontoons do require PFDs on all Idaho waters.

Click here for more information on how to choose a life jacket.

Click here to watch a video depicting cold water safety training and techniques.

In the past ten years nearly 67% of the fatal boating accidents in Idaho were the result of victims involuntarily entering the water from small boats. The average water temperature of Idaho’s water is 52 degrees, even during the summer. Wearing a life jacket can greatly increase your risk of surviving a cold water immersion situation.

4 Dangerous Categories of Cold Water Immersion

Cold Shock - Initial entry - 5 minutes:

  • Involuntary gasping, hyperventilation, & vertigo

Swim Failure - 5 - 30 minutes:

  • Even the best swimmers cannot function in cold water  
  • Muscles, nerves, arms & legs cool quickly
  • Manual dexterity, grip strength & movement speed drop 60-80%

Hypothermia - 30 minutes or more:  

  • Depends on water temperature, clothing, body type & behavior
  • Heat loss is 25 times faster in the water

Post Immersion Collapse:            

  • Heart problems can develop as cold blood is released into the body core from the extremities

To increase your chances of surviving cold water immersion, always wear your life jacket.

Invasive Species Sticker Assistance: 1-888-922-6743 (M-F 8am to 7pm MST)

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