Georgia Boater Education Course


CHAPTER 2: Boating Equipment


You need to check to make sure that your PFD is the right size, the right type for your activity, and that it’s U.S. Coast Guard approved.

You can find out this information by looking on the label.

Every approved PFD will have a product label with information about the intended use of the device, the size of the person it will fit, any special care instructions, and how to properly wear the PFD. It will also say whether the PFD is U.S. Coast Guard approved.

No label? Then it’s not approved and should not be used!

The U.S. Coast Guard approval means that the PFD meets certain standards of buoyancy and construction. It also means that the PFD has been given a “Type” and a descriptive name, so you can be sure it will be up to the task of your chosen activity.

By the way, paying attention to the label is serious business. Using a PFD beyond the intended use described on the label is illegal and can result in serious penalties. More important, it can result in fatalities. So, you should always check the label and make sure you are following its guidelines.

Here are some other important federal guidelines to remember.

The U.S. Coast requires that:

  1. You need a wearable PFD for every person onboard your boat, and it needs to be the right size. Four adults and two children? You need four adult-sized PFDs and two-child sized PFDs.
  2. If your boat is longer than 16 ft, you also need at least one Type 4, throwable PFD, on board.
  3. And if your PFD is in poor condition, for example if it has any rips or tears, it is not considered approved.

The most important regulation? You need one properly fitted PFD onboard for each of your passengers!