Table of Contents

Download the PDF Version

It's the Law


When preparing to go out on a boat or a personal watercraft (PWC), the operator must check that the legally required equipment is on board.

Personal Flotation Devices


All vessels must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD), sometimes called life jacket, for each person on board. However, Type V PFDs are acceptable only when worn and securely fastened.

Georgia law requires that all children under 13 years of age wear a USCG–approved PFD while on board any moving vessel. This law does not apply when the child is in a fully enclosed cabin.

In addition to the above requirements, one USCG–approved throwable device must be on board all boats (except vessels less than 16 feet long which includes PWC, canoes, and kayaks) and readily accessible.

One Type V PFD may be substituted for any other type if it is specifically approved by the USCG for the activity at hand. Type V PFDs may not be substituted on children weighing less than 90 pounds.

Each person riding on a PWC must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD that is properly fitted and fastened. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use on PWC.

All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.

Persons being towed must wear a ski belt; ski jacket; or Type I, II, or III PFD that is properly fitted and fastened.

Type I

Type I: Wearable Offshore Life Jackets

These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

Type II

Type II: Wearable Near-Shore Vests

These vests are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. A Type II may not turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water.

Type III

Type III: Wearable Flotation Aids

These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters because they will not turn most unconscious persons face up.

Type IV

Type IV: Throwable Devices

These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Because a throwable device is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.

Type V

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices

These vests, deck suits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities, such as windsurfing, kayaking, or water-skiing. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be used in accordance with their label.