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Coast Guard Makes Lifejackets Mandatory


The U.S. Coast Guard has formally stepped into the lifejacket debate with a new regulation that went into effect on Christmas Eve.

According to the new regulation, all children under 13 years of age are now required to wear Coast Guard-approved lifejackets while aboard recreational vessels underway, except when the children are below decks or in an enclosed cabin.

According to Coast Guard officials, the new rule was created to address the problem of childhood drownings while boating. Between 1995 and 2001, 210 children under the age of 13 died while boating; 121 of these deaths were from drowning. Most of these deaths could have been prevented if the child had been wearing a properly fitting lifejacket, the Coast Guard said in a press release.

This rule affects only those states that have not established requirements, by statute or rule, for children to wear lifejackets. For the remaining states, the rule recognizes and adopts the existing state regulation, even if it is less stringent, the press release said.

Penalties for a boat operator who fails to have all children under the age of 13 wear a lifejacket are similar to those for failing to have lifejackets on board. Penalties may be assessed up to a maximum of $1,100 for each violation.

The United States Coast Guard published the Interim Rule in the Federal Register on June 24, and, in cooperation with state boating safety agencies, has been conducting a six-month education and public awareness phase end Dec. 31.

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