Nearly 80% of all boating fatalities in the state occur because of boaters not wearing lifejackets

The state of Pennsylvania is preparing to put into effect a recently passed law requiring mandating use of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) on small boats during the winter months.

Beginning 1 November and lasting through 30 April, boaters are required to wear a lifejacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16ft or on any canoe or kayak. The requirement applies to all Pennsylvania waters.

According to Pennsylvania boating accident reports, nearly 80% of all boating fatalities occur because of boaters not wearing lifejackets. A disproportionate number of deaths happen between November and April.

When a person is unexpectedly plunged into cold water below 70°F, the body’s first response is usually an involuntary gasp. Without a lifejacket, a victim may inhale while under water and drown. The ability to swim is restricted by shortness of breath or hyperventilation.

“No boating trip should ever begin without wearing a life jacket, especially this time of year,” says Ryan Walt, Pennsylvania Fish & Boating Commission Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager in a news release. “Even on sunny days when air temperatures are comfortable, water temperatures are quickly dropping. Boaters, especially those in kayaks and canoes, are at greater risk for sudden cold-water immersion. A lifejacket can keep you afloat and alive.”