Life Jackets Save Lives – Wear It!

Life jackets are the single most effective piece of safety gear in a boat. Study after study show that if you wear a life jacket, you are 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.

Tips about life jackets:  

  1. Know that federal and state laws, as well as local ordinances, may vary depending on the body of water and time of year.
  2. Choosing the right device requires research. Your body type, swim skills, boating activity and environment need to be considered. Find one you'll actually wear.
  3. Read the label and understand performance levels, warnings and intended use, maintenance requirements and make sure it's U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
  4. Learn how to properly fit life jackets for you and your family. It should fit snugly and comfortably enough to be worn at all times.
  5. Drying properly and keeping it clean will maintain your device in wearable condition. Regular checking (for wear and tear) and servicing (inflatables) is important.
  6. Know where to find an extra life jacket. There are free loaner stations throughout the state.
WearIt-Partner_Washington State Parks

Life-saving tip: A life jacket only works if you wear it. 

  1. Life Jacket Laws
  2. Types of Life Jackets
  3. Fitting a Life Jacket
  4. Life Jacket Loaner Stations

State law requires 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) for each person on board a vessel.

Additional state laws:

  • 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 an appropriate U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV (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.