Did you know that your chances of dying from going overboard are five times greater in winter months than in the summer? The Sea Tow Foundation wants to remind boaters to always wear their life jackets, especially once the temperatures begin to drop. A total of 5 northern states have laws requiring life jackets to be worn by boaters during typically cold weather months. This requirement is in response to the number of accidents and deaths that have occurred as a result of cold water immersion.
“If you were to become immersed in cold water for even a short period of time, manual dexterity will be lost – along with your ability to swim or put on a life jacket – within ten minutes of being in the water,” said Sea Tow Foundation Executive Director, Gail R. Kulp. “Without a life jacket, the cold can lead to drowning long before hypothermia even begins to set in.”
The five states with cold water life jacket wear policies each have differing requirements:
- Connecticut: Life jackets must be worn by anyone in a manually-propelled vessel from October 1 through May 31 (must be a Type I, II, III, V or V-hybrid).
- Maine: All boaters canoeing or kayaking on the Saco River between Hiram Dam and the Atlantic Ocean between January 1 and June 1st must be wearing a life jacket.
- Massachusetts: Life jackets must be worn from September 15 – May 15 when operating a canoe or kayak.
- New York: All owners or operators of a boat less than 21 feet, including rowboats, canoes and kayaks, between November 1st and May 1st, must ensure that all passengers must be wearing a securely-fastened United States Coast Guard-approved wearable personal flotation device of an appropriate size while out on the water.
- Pennsylvania: From November 1 to April 30, boaters are required to wear a life jacket while on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak.
Even if your state doesn’t have a cold weather life jacket wear requirement, it is a smart and safe idea to wear a life jacket any time the water temperature drops below 60 degrees. It is imperative that, during cold weather months, boaters not only wear a life jacket, but have one that is USCG-approved and is appropriate for the type of activity that you will be participating in. Life jackets save lives, but only if they are worn.