“What boaters see on store shelves will probably not change anytime soon,” Dardis explains. “The Type II classification of PFDs might go away. We’re not sure yet. And some new comfort innovations may be allowed so more users will wear their life jackets. But you’ll still need to pick the right one for your specific application.”
Although requirements in state waters may vary, the Coast Guard requires a life jacket for everyone on board in federal waters. Junior anglers 12 years old and under must wear one, but the Coast Guard urges everyone to always wear a life jacket on the water because you never know when someone will fall overboard. According to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association, 70 percent of all boating fatalities result from drowning, and nearly 90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.
Dardis suggests checking every life jacket before you leave the dock and recommends rinsing off the salt and letting jackets dry after every trip to prevent rot. “Quality life jackets aren’t cheap, but if you take care of them, they’ll last a long time. Foam vests tolerate more abuse and last longer, but they are also bulkier and hotter. Inflatables are more comfortable, but they are often more expensive and also require a bit more maintenance.”