Once purchased, make sure your child feels comfortable wearing the life jacket and always test its effectiveness in the water before going boating. With the jacket on your child, conduct a “float test” in a secure, non-boating setting, such as a swimming pool, and teach your child how to float in a relaxed, face-up position. Trying it out under controlled conditions will also mean less anxiety for both of you should the child accidentally fall into the water while boating. Also, if you set a good example by wearing your own life jacket at all times on or near the water, your child will come to consider always wearing a life jacket as the natural thing to do.
Next summer, be sure to recheck the fit at the start of the boating season, and at the start of every boating season. If your child has outgrown the jacket, it’s time for a new one. Never try to make-do by putting an adult life jacket on a child. The jacket has to fit snug so your child doesn’t slip through.
Can’t afford life jackets? Or need them just for the day? The BoatU.S Foundation's Life Jacket Loaner Program offers infant, toddler and children's life jackets at more than 350 locations nationwide. Many state and local boating organizations also have life jackets for children and adults available on loan. You can check out life jackets for a day or a weekend simply by completing a loan form. To find a loaner site in your area visit http://www.BoatUS.com/foundation/ljlp or check with your local marina.
So buckle up those Little Boaters! You may not be able to protect your child from every hazard, but around boats putting him or her in a well-fitting life jacket, and setting a good example by wearing your own life jacket, is a good place start.
Dos and Don’t for Safe Boating Kids
DO make sure that each child wears a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times on or near the water.
DON’T allow your children to sit on the deck, seatbacks, or gunwales while the boat is underway. If children are swimming near the boat, take the key out of the ignition.
DO take advantage of every opportunity to teach children to respect the waterways by obeying the rules of navigation and protecting the waterway environment.
DON’T allow children to trail their hands, arms, or legs in the water any time the boat is underway, especially when docking or maneuvering around solid objects, such as a pier.
DO teach your children to help with chores on the boat by enrolling them in a basic Safe Boating course offered through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons®, or your local State boating authority.
DON’T allow children to stand in high-speed boats. A quick drop of the throttle can result in serious head injuries; rapid acceleration can throw passengers over the transom and into the dangerous area behind the boat.
Most important, DO set a good example by taking a boating safety course yourself, always wearing your life jacket, never boating under the influence, and making sure your boat is properly equipped by signing up for an annual Vessel Safety Check offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or United States Power Squadrons®.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.