Coast Guard advisory group approves life jacket resolution

Published online: Apr 15, 2011 News Boating Industry
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Meeting in Arlington on April 1-2, the National Boating Safety Advisory Council, a Congressionally mandated advisory group to the Coast Guard on recreational boating safety, approved a new resolution for life jacket wear, according to a release from the Marine Retailers Association of America. NBSAC passed the resolution with 15 in favor to 5 opposed. 

The resolution asks the Coast Guard to initiate efforts that target a future regulatory project to pursue requirements for life jacket wear for recreational boaters while underway and riding in or upon 1.) personal watercraft, regardless of length; 2.) human powered vessels (such as canoes, kayaks, rowboats, etc) regardless of length; 3.) any vessel less than 18-feet in length; and 4.) any person being towed while engaged in water sports. 

The resolution further charges the Coast Guard to work with its partners to design a strategy to engage the boating public through in-person and electronic dialogue on this topic through pre-rulemaking consultation aimed at informing the public about the potential benefits of such regulation, gauging public opinion about life jacket wear based on boating type and activity, and making decisions on this topic based on a thorough understanding of both public sentiment and potential benefits. 

In addition, the resolution asks the Coast Guard to streamline the life jacket testing and approval process to reduce the overall cost of highly comfortable life jackets, support innovation and creativity in life jacket design and technology, and allow improved life jacket models to reach the consumer more quickly and easily. By doing so, the Coast Guard should give proper consideration to the acceptance of alternative life jackets by completing and accepting a harmonized North American standard. 

"The federal government has been pushing for mandatory adult life jacket wear for several years," the MRAA said in its release. "The action of NBSAC followed on a test project of the Corps of Engineers on three lakes in Mississippi, Ohio, and California and a recent announcement that the National Park Service was going to initiate a test case of mandatory adult life jacket wear on Lake Mead. The Coast Guard has verbally expressed its desire to declare all federal waters an adult life jacket zone." 

According to a statistician at the meeting, approximately 82 million Americans go boating each year and there are about 400 drowning deaths on average. If the recommendations of the NBSAC resolution were enacted, it was predicted about 70-80 additional lives would be saved. 

MRAA asked its members to contact the group with their thoughts on the issue. 

MRAA recently issued a position paper opposing mandatory adult life jacket wear, which was distributed to its members and posted on MRAA.com. 

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