Education plus use saves lives

Education plus use saves lives

Are you required to have a life jacket on while canoeing? 

My child isn’t comfortable in a life jacket. If we’re not going fast, do they have to wear it?

If you’re the least bit unsure what state requirements exist for life jackets, make sure to take a refresher before getting out on the lake.

It’s not just about following the law but saving lives.


Also known as PFDs, or personal flotation devices, there are many different types of life jackets on the market. Make sure the ones outfitted for your excursion are U.S. Coast Guard approved. The USCG label on the inside of the life jacket has instructions and allowable use requirements since there are different types. Some life jackets are better suited for the open and rough water and designed to turn an unconscious person face-up. Other PFDs are designed for calmer inland water. See the different types here.

It’s not just the type of life jacket that’s important. Size matters. A life jacket that is too small may not keep your loved one afloat. If it’s too big, the PFD could come off on impact if suddenly thrown into the water. 

So how do you tell the right size?

A PFD should be snug around the torso, and when lifting on the shoulder straps, should not come past the bottom of the ears. PFDs are sized by weight and chest size and should be tried on before purchasing to assure a proper fit for the person that will be wearing it.

Remember that in Texas:

•    Children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable PFD while underway.
•    All vessels under 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V for each person on board.
•    Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, III or V for each person on board, must have one Type IV throwable device which must be readily accessible. Canoes and kayaks over 16 feet are exempt from the Type IV requirement.

May is National Water Safety Month, a campaign aimed at raising awareness about water safety and highlighting the importance of public education regarding safer practices for kids and adults when they’re in and around water.

“National Water Safety Month is a powerful way to send a crucial message at the start of the busy summer swim season,” said Connie Harvey, Director of the Aquatics Centennial Initiative for the American Red Cross, in a press release. “There are layers of protection involved in water safety. Ensuring everyone in the family learns how to swim and that parents and caregivers have the knowledge and skills to handle emergencies around the water, including how to perform CPR is a good place to start. National Water Safety Month helps us communicate these messages.”


And life jackets are a part of that message. But they aren’t just important on boats. 

As families and friends visit pools, waterparks, lakes, the Brazos River or any open body of water for recreational activities, it’s vital to practice water safety.

The National Water Safety Month campaign supporters offer six important tips and reminders for parents and caregivers about safer water practices.

1. Constant adult supervision:
Actively supervise children and non-swimmers around the water. Don’t just drop kids off. Avoid distracting activities such as checking email or social media.

2. Learn to swim:
No matter your age, learning to swim is one of the best ways to be safer in and around the water.

3. Look for lifeguards:
Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.

4. Swim with a buddy:
Do not allow anyone to swim alone. Use the buddy system.

5. Wear a life jacket:
Adults and kids should always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while boating. Inflatable toys can be fun but are not a substitute for U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

6. Learn CPR:
Learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies by learning CPR.

These reminders are even more important as we approach the summer holidays.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day marks the peak of recreational boating in Texas and traditionally sees the most boating-related injuries and fatalities, according to a 2019 article in the Houston Chronicle. 

The past year, Texas game wardens made more than 526,000 water safety “contacts” with boaters and others on public waters across the state, according to the article. Those numbers show boaters who wear a life jacket, avoid alcohol, and use their vessel’s emergency engine cut-off devices are the least likely to be involved in fatalities or injuries on the water. From 2011 to 2018, Texas had 269 boating-related fatalities, according to the article.

And the constant theme from year to year in the majority of those boating-related deaths — 75-80% — resulted from drowning, according to the article. Nationally, an average of 85 percent of drowning victims on boats were not wearing PFDs.

Stay safe this summer, whether visiting the local pool, the Brazos River, or any of the three Brazos River Authority reservoirs. Water safety is important today and every day.

For more complete information, check The Water Safety Act.