Mandatory Life Jacket Policy Issued Through April 30 for all Pa. Waters


Beginning on November 1 and lasting through April 30, boaters are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. The requirement applies to all Pennsylvania waters.

“The interest in boating, especially paddling, in Pennsylvania, has continued to increase over the past several seasons, and people will stay busy on the water well into the fall months,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager. “Boaters should be aware that water temperatures begin to drop rapidly at this time of year, and even on sunny days when air temperatures are comfortable and warm, the water can be cold enough to put boaters at risk for sudden cold-water immersion. A life jacket can keep your head above water until help arrives.”

Sudden cold-water immersion, or cold-water shock, occurs when a person is unexpectedly plunged into cold water below 70ºF resulting in an involuntary gasp where water is often inhaled. This uncontrollable reaction causes panic, hyperventilation, inhalation of water, and inhibits the ability of a person to swim.

According to Pennsylvania boating accident reports, nearly 80% of all boating fatalities occurred because boaters were not wearing life jackets. Prior to this life jacket wear requirement being enacted in 2012, a disproportionate number of deaths happened between November and April. Since then, the Commission has seen a significant drop in the percentage of boating incidents that result in fatalities during the cold weather months.