What Is The California State Law Regarding Life Jacket Use?

California Life Jacket Laws

California’s waters are filled with boaters, kayakers and others who are operating watercraft for fun and exercise. However, when accidents occur, those who are not wearing personal floatation devices or life jackets may suffer serious injury or death. In fact, according to the California Department of Boating and Waterways or DBW, the majority of boating fatalities, about 67 percent, can be attributed to drowning. Of those who drown, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident.

The most common reason given for failure to wear a life jacket is knowing how to swim. However, today’s technologically-advanced life jackets are convenient and less restrictive than those in previous years and can provide protection in situations in which swimming may be difficult or impossible.

For example, a victim who has been knocked unconscious or sustained a serious injury may be unable to swim at all, and alcohol consumption or cold water immersion may slow down normally good swimmers. Life jackets never hurt a person’s chances of surviving a boating accident and may help.

California Life Jacket Law

Boating is a common activity during the summer months and during the change of seasons, so the California Department of Boating and Waterways has issued several guidelines for life jacket use that comply with current California law. According to current California statutes, the following life jacket rules apply:

  • Children under age 13 must wear a life jacket when on a vessel 26 feet or less in length. Parents or guardians who violate this law may face fines of up to $250.
  • Anyone on a boat or personal watercraft being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • No one may operate a vessel, personal watercraft device or skis may have a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more.
  • All vessels must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices or PFDs, according to the length of the vessel and the number of people on board.
  • All life jackets must be in good condition, must be properly sized for the wearers, and must be readily accessible in an emergency if they are not already being worn. PFDs may not be locked in closed compartments or stored in plastic bags that would make it difficult to access them quickly and may not have other gear stowed on top of them.

What Should I Do If I Am Involved in A Boating Accident?

A personal injury attorney often represents those who have been involved in a boating accident and sustained injuries, especially when such an accident was caused by another person’s negligence. It is important that victims recover damages to pay for their expenses, including medical bills, lost wages during missed work and increased living expenses, as well as compensation for pain, suffering and emotional distress. A Sacramento personal injury attorney may be able to help the victims of a boating accident recover these types of monetary damages.