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Army Corps says no to nationwide life-jacket policy

Kudos to the Army Corps of Engineers for wrapping up a three-year study of mandated life jacket wear on several lakes and determining it will not establish a nationwide policy dictating such a requirement.

More specifically, in a policy memorandum, Major General Michael Walsh, Deputy Commanding Officer for Civil and Emergency Operations, has requested that Corps District Commanders consider selectively expanding a life jacket wear policy at targeted locations within their divisions. However, there will be no systemwide mandate.

From May 2007 through October 2011, the Corps conducted a life jacket study in which various mandatory life-jacket wear policies were established and tested on selected lakes. Specifically, these were in Corps districts in Mississippi, California and Pennsylvania/Ohio. The goal was to determine if mandatory wear policies would save lives, as well as gauging the all-important impact and acceptance of such policies by the boaters using Corps lakes. The reaction was clearly mixed, with the greatest degree of apparent acceptance on the Vicksburg District’s test lakes. On the other hand, there was very significant pushback in California and overall little enforcement and impact in the Pittsburgh District.

In essence, the Corps is opting to leave future decisions to the local commanders. That said, the Corps still has its strategic campaign plan in effect that calls for a 50 percent reduction in water fatalities at Corps-operated lakes by fiscal-year 2014. Educational programs will continue to be a mainstay in their plans.

The latest Corps action is certainly pleasing to the marine industry, which is generally opposed to mandatory wear with certain exceptions such as children and PWC operators. Indeed, the industry has voiced strong support for boating safety educational programs that have resulted in the steady decline of boating-related fatalities to a current record low, while boating participation has continued to grow.

While the Corp’s decision settles that deliberation, at least for the moment, there is still an ongoing debate about mandatory wear in Coast Guard circles. Late last year, its Boating Safety Advisory Council, in a split vote, approved the examination by the Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety of the boating public’s response to a proposal that all occupants of vessels 18 feet and under be mandated to wear a life jacket.

If surveys done by organizations such as BoatUS are any indication, it’s already anticipated that the Coast Guard study will bring overwhelming opposition by the boating public to general mandated wear.

Comments

10 comments on “Army Corps says no to nationwide life-jacket policy

  1. Eric Shepard

    The advent of inflatable life vests allows for easy and comfortable wear at all times. Foam life vest design has evolved such that they can readily be worn in most conditions. (When it is just plain too hot, put on an inflatable waist pack).

    It is irresponsible to fail to wear a life vest. It is even more irresponsible to fail to regulate for wear.

    Safe boating classes are imperative in almost all states. Life vest wear should be imperative too.

  2. john ennis

    only an idiot would take a boat load of people out on the water and not have them wear PFD’s. Another reason for mandatory boating safety classes for all boat operators..Don’t think so. Sit on the beach at the Dunedin Causeway in Florida on a weekend and watch boaters speed thru groups of kayakers and sailboats. These a..holes don’t know they are legaly responsible for any damage and deaths caused by their boat wakes. All they needed was a down payment.

  3. Andrew

    For approx the last 7 years,Tasmania has had compulsory lifejacket laws.On a vessel less than 20 ft lifejackets must be worn-.For inshore or lakes a buoyancy vest (no collar) is ok. Vessels over 20 ft must carry lifejackets for each person but they do not have to be worn by adults.(children must)
    I am a retailer and had virtually no adverse reaction from my customers when the laws were introduced especially as cheaper inflatable versions ($65 is not expensive) became available.
    Pretty much a no brainer here.

  4. Bpante

    To ERIC I’m American don’t try to take what few freedoms I still have. It is my life, my choice. If you believe so strongly you are free to wear one.

    USCG Retired

  5. Jack

    The boating statistics do not support the dictates that everyone should wear a PFD.
    Boating is a family fun event and the safety record has had a tremendous improvement
    over the past twenty years. ie;# of boaters have doubled while fatals have fallen 50%.
    Mandatory wear would have a major negative impact on recreational income by states with
    large boating populations.

  6. dave

    adding to Jack’s comment..

    …if you subtract out impaired and drunk boating accidents, the fatalities would drop even more…but the Gov won’t go there…it is not PC…

    I am capable of deciding when and where I wear my PFD….surely do not need the Gov, any of it, telling me differently.

  7. JOHN

    Can’t believe some of these comments; has teabagging even started to affect sailing?? This requirement should be a complete no-brainer, just like mandatory seatbelts or motorcycle helmets.

    Ex-USCG, what are the SAR costs to the taxpayer when law enforcement has to go out & recover your dead dumba** b/c you were too “free” to wear a PFD? I know several people whose lives were altered irrevocably b/c someone aboard drowned while not wearing a PFD.

  8. Joe Lewis

    Mandatory wearing on PFD’s ? Here’s a report worth reading:
    “The victim was kayaking alone when he began experiencing breathing problems. The victim called 911 from his vessel. He explained to the operator that he was too far from land and could not make it back to shore. The victim then exited the kayak and began walking to shore dragging his kayak behind him. While on the telephone with 911 the victim collapsed and fell forward in the water. When first responders arrived on scene they located the victim face down in the water wearing a lifejacket. Attempts to resuscitate the victim were unsuccessful and he was pronounced deceased at a local hospital.”
    The PFD didn’t help this poor fellow. May have even made his condition worse from the constriction.
    Boating has a safety record that is the envy of other recreational outdoor activities. More can and will be done with boater education but the Corps made a wise decision in this case. The government making PFD usage mandatory is a classic case of a solution desperately seeking a problem!

  9. John Sprague

    I boat and fish in Florida where is is hot. I make the decision of wearing no vest or or an inflatable vest or a type 1 vest depending on where i am boating and weather and sea conditions. I do not need the federal government running my life. Most federal government agencies need a 50% reduction in staff and regulations. They sit in their offices and come up with rules and regulations to justify and insure that their jobs are forever and needing more manpower to enforce them, which is a large part why we have unemplyment and a major deficit.

  10. Phil

    I also boat in Florida and agree with John Sprague.

    Also, why not make life jackets mandatory when swimming. That would save lifes.
    Or outlaw boating all together. That would save lives.

    If you want to wear one, wear one.

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