The U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Boating and Waterways are making a special pitch to boating parents to make sure their kids are safely buckled into an approved life jacket at all times on or near the water.
California state law requires that children under 12 wear a life jacket on boats 26 feet in length or less whenever the boat is underway, unless they are below deck or restrained by a tethered harness. But it's wise to take an extra measure of safety when children are in hazardous areas near the water, such as piers.
Today's life jackets for kids incorporate new designs, technologies, and bright colors and cartoon prints. Kids' jackets are also provide extra protection. Many models for infants and toddlers feature built-in head support that will turn the wearer face-up in the water, and most are built with extra buoyancy or other safety features just for children.
The U.S. Coast Guard label on the inside of the life jacket signifies that the jacket has passed stringent tests for safety and durability.
Unlike shoes, a child's life jacket should fit snugly from day one. Parents should not buy a life jacket that a child will grow into. To check for a good fit, put the life jacket on your children and then pick them up by the shoulders of the jacket. The jacket should not ride up.
Make sure your children feel comfortable wearing their life jacket and always test its effectiveness in the water before boating. Conduct a float test in a secure, non-boating setting such as a swimming pool, and teach your children how to float in a relaxed, face-up position. And set a good example by wearing your own life jacket at all times on or near the water.
Cal Boating provides life jackets for children and adults on loan at local fire stations and other locations. To find a Life Jacket Loan Station, visit www.dbw.ca.gov/BoaterInfo/LifeJacket.aspx.