The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities
The Official Boating Handbook of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Web Version
Table of Contents
All vessels must be equipped with a personal flotation device (PFD), sometimes called a life jacket, for each person on board or being towed.
- The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requires that all vessels have at least one Type I, II, or III PFD that is USCG–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
- Michigan's PFD law permits a vessel that is less than 16 feet long, or is a canoe or kayak, to choose to have either a wearable PFD (Type I, II, or III) or a throwable PFD (Type IV) for each person on board.
In addition to the above requirements, one USCG–approved throwable device must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer and be readily accessible.
Michigan law requires all children under 6 years of age to wear a USCG–approved Type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway.
Each person riding on a personal watercraft (PWC) or being towed behind a PWC or other vessel must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on PWC or while being towed behind PWC or other vessels.
All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.
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: 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: 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 since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up.
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: 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.