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Kids and life jackets. What’s the law?
The law in Missouri states that any child under the age of seven—so six years, up to 364 days old—is required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket any time they are aboard a vessel. The only exception to that would be if they would be inside, like the cabin area of a day cruiser or houseboat, completely enclosed inside. There’s a couple different types. The younger they are, they have the pillow to help keep their head out of water if a child would go into the water. And then you have your ski vest, as well.
And people can tell if it’s U.S. Coast Guard–approved by the label right on the inside, right?
Absolutely. It will say U.S. Coast Guard–approved. It will also list the type. It’s going to usually give you a range in the pounds of the child that it’s most appropriate for, as well.
And obviously, really important for kids to wear the life jacket because most of the time they can’t swim.
You know, absolutely. I’ve heard lots of reasons through the years for why children aren’t wearing their life jackets. I’ve had parents tell me that their kids are good swimmers. But we’ve got to remember, we’re talking about children under the age of seven. And they might be a really good swimmer in a swimming pool, but how good of a swimmer are they when they’re out in the middle of a lake with two-foot waves, when they’re scared, when they’re hurt? I’ve had parents tell me that it’s too hot. If it’s hot, I mean, I’m aware that it’s hot. We’re dressed in attire that’s not the most comfortable and the coolest out there. If it’s too hot for your child to be wearing a life jacket, the best place for them to be is at home in the air conditioning. A life jacket is very similar to a seatbelt in a car. It’s not 110% guaranteed it’s going to save your life, but chances are it will. Another thing about children that people aren’t always aware of is if a child falls in the water, it’s not out of the question that they may not resurface. Because their lungs are so small they could fill up with water that quickly. So you may not have an opportunity to grab them if they would unexpectedly go into the water or if they were involved in a crash.