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Just so that you can clear this up for me and for everybody, there are a lot of types of life jackets out there.

Rob holds up an inflatable life jacket.


This is one of them. Obviously, it looks a lot different than that one.

He points to the wearable life jacket the safety officer is holding.

Sergeant Mike Barr

It is.


What kind do you need when you ride a personal watercraft or jet ski?

Sergeant Barr

You need a wearable life jacket, U.S. Coast Guard–approved. They’re designated by weight and chest size, and it’s on the interior of the life jacket that you can locate one that’ll be the proper size. In addition to that, it needs to be properly fitted on your person. Unbuckling the life jacket while you’re riding is only going to cause a problem when you hit the water. It’s going to come off of your person. So you need to have that properly buckled. The inflatable type that you’re holding is a hybrid type of life jacket—very comfortable to wear for a normal boater. But for a personal watercraft operator or a passenger, it doesn’t operate well because of the impact of the water if you come off of the personal watercraft, and it takes time to inflate. It is not a legal life jacket for a personal watercraft operator or passenger.


Now, there are probably some other rules that are specific to personal watercraft. Could you run through them real quick for us?

Sergeant Barr

Sure. They must be operated between sunrise and sunset—no sunset to sunrise. There’s no navigational lights on them, and they’re not authorized to be operated after sunset. In addition to that, the person must have a circling device or a lanyard attached from him to the safety ignition switch that will remove that switch and turn the motor off should he fall off. In addition to that, if you’re skiing, there’s some additional requirements: that you have an observer on board to make sure that they have their eyes on the skier and the operator has his eyes in front of the boat.

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