Life jackets save lives - Wear It 

A life jacket is one of the most effective pieces of safety gear in a boat. Pro-tip: It only works if you wear it.

  • According to the U.S. Coast Guard, most boating related drownings happen on nice days. 
  • Studies show that if you wear a life jacket, you’re more likely to survive if something goes wrong. 
  • Anyone can drown regardless of age and swimming capabilities. Especially in cold water, which many of Washington’s waterways are cold year-round. 

life jacket tips

  1. Find one you’ll actually wear. Choosing the right life jacket requires research. Your body type and swimming skills, along with the type of boating activity and environment, need to be considered.
  2. Read the label and understand performance levels, warnings and intended use, maintenance requirements and make sure it’s U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
  3. Learn how to properly fit a life jacket. It needs to help keep your head above the water. It should fit snugly and comfortably enough to be worn at all times. 
  4. Maintain your device by drying it properly and keeping it clean. Regularly check for wear and tear and service inflatables (replace cartridges, etc.).
  5. Know the laws. Federal and state laws, as well as local ordinances, may vary depending on the body of water and time of year.

life jacket resources

Washington state LIFE JACKET LAWS

  • All vessels (including canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards) must carry at least one properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket (Personal Flotation Device or PFD) for each person on board a vessel. 
  • Children 12 years old and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
  • Each person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) and anyone being towed behind a boat must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket designed specifically for that activity.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable flotation device must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement.

Contact your local police or sheriff’s department or home owner’s association to find out if there’s additional ordinances. If you’re on federal waterways, be sure to know the life jacket laws that may apply.