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All vessels must be equipped with USCG–approved life jackets, called personal flotation devices (PFDs). The quantity and type depend on the length of your vessel and the number of people on board and/or being towed. Each PFD must be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible! Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.). PFDs should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them.

Vessel operators should ask everyone on their vessel to wear a PFD whenever on the water. PFDs can save lives, but only if they are worn!

Specific PFD Requirements

Georgia law requires the following with respect to PFDs.

  • All vessels must have at least one USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD for each person on board. However, Type V PFDs are acceptable only when worn and securely fastened.
  • All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible. The PFDs must be of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
  • In addition to the above requirements, one Type IV USCG–approved PFD 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.
  • The person being towed must wear a ski belt; ski jacket; or Type I, II, or III PFD that is properly fitted and fastened.

Video: Georgia PFD Requirements

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Video Transcript
Rob

All right. So we’re out here on the boat in Georgia with conservation ranger Kate Hargrove. She’s going to fill us in on what you need to have on the boat as far as life jackets—PFDs.

Ranger Hargrove

Well Rob, while on the water, each vessel must have on board a wearable life vest for each person on board. They need to be in good, serviceable condition and readily accessible. They should not be stowed in locked compartments. Also, it needs to be the intended size for the wearer. This would be based on their chest size and body weight. If you look on the inside of the vest, each vest will be Coast Guard–approved and will usually tell you the intended size for the wearer.

Rob

So, just, so basically what you’re saying is just because you have five life jackets, if you have five people on the boat, doesn’t really matter. You have to make sure that they fit the person.

Ranger Hargrove

Correct.

Rob

And you’ve got to make sure all of the buckles work and they’re actually functioning.

Ranger Hargrove

Yes, they’re in good condition. Yes.

Rob

OK, and this—this is a throwable device. So this is in addition to every life jacket that everybody has.

Ranger Hargrove

Correct. Any vessel greater than 16 feet needs to have a throwable device on board. And this will also be Coast Guard–approved.

Rob

And throwable devices aren’t always those big rings. I guess this counts, right? This is just a seat cushion, but it’s—

Ranger Hargrove

These seat cushions are commonly found, yes.

Rob

And they have the stamp, so it’s Coast Guard–approved. Important.

Ranger Hargrove

Correct. Because of the safety issue involved, we don’t want anybody on the water without having a life jacket accessible to them. And what I’m wearing here is an inflatable life vest, and this will inflate if you go into the water or if you have an emergency. They’re a lot more comfortable and cool in the summer. However, they should not be worn by children under 90 pounds because they could easily slip out of them.

Rob

And the best life jacket is the one you’re wearing. Those look ideal.