Life Jackets and the Law
Under California law, every child under 13 years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the conditions and the activity. The law does not apply to children under 13 years of age who are:
on a sailboat and are constrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat
in an enclosed cabin
on a vessel engaged in an emergency rescue situation
If a life jacket fits properly...
- It will help keep your head above the water.
- If it's too big, the life jacket will ride up around your face.
- If it's too small, it will not be able to keep your body afloat.
- Life jackets designed for adults will not work for children!
Try it on for size!
- Check the manufacturer's label to ensure that the life jacket is a proper fit for your size and weight.
- Make sure the jacket is properly fastened.
- Hold your arms straight up over your head.
- Ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up.
- Make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face.
- For the best fit, try the life jacket in shallow water under safe and supervised conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Life Jackets
Life Jackets and the Law
- 1. on a sailboat and are restrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat;
- 2. in an enclosed cabin;
- 3. on a vessel engaged in an emergency rescue situation.
For a boat less than 16 feet long, or a canoe or a kayak of any length, you are required to:
- 1. Everyone on board a personal watercraft (popularly known as “jet skis”) and anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- 2. A Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be carried for each person on board. If stored, these life jackets must be readily available (easy to get to), and you must show passengers the location of life jackets and other safety equipment.
- 3. Anyone using an underwater maneuvering device is exempt from wearing a life jacket. An underwater maneuvering device is any towed or self-powered device designed for underwater use that a person can pilot through diving, turning and surfacing moves.
For a boat 16 feet or longer, you must carry for each passenger:
1. The same requirements as above and one immediately accessible (easy-to-reach) Type IV device designed for throwing – such as a ring, cushion or horseshoe buoy for each boat.
What type of life jacket should you wear?
How to Choose the Right Life Jacket?
TRY IT ON:
- Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight.
- 1. Make sure the jacket is properly zipped or buckled.
- 2. Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up.
- 3. If there is excess room above the openings and the jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.
- 1. It is extremely important that you choose a properly fitting life jacket.
- 2. Jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
- 3. Jackets that are too small will not be able to keep your body afloat.
- Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
- 1. Double check that your jacket is appropriate for your favorite boating activities.
- 2. Take the time to ensure a proper fit.
- 3. Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets.