Life Jackets - Personal Flotation Devices

Children Wearing Life Jackets
Water can be deceiving and the current can be deadly. Statistics show that wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) can save your life and the ones you love.
It's the Law
All vessels (including canoes and kayaks) must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) - approved Type I, II or III life jacket (PFD) for each person on the boat. In addition to that requirement, one:

  • USCG - approved Type IV (throwable) floatation device must onboard vessels 16 feet or longer. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement. 
  • Children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG - approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area. 
  • Each person onboard a personal watercraft (PWC) and anyone being towed behind a boat must wear a Type I, II, or III USCG approved life jacket  

Although the state requires children to wear a life jacket, adults are encouraged to wear one. Adults set a good example for children to always wear their life jackets well into adulthood. Remember, life jacket wear doesn’t only apply to children – anyone can drown regardless of how old they are and if they consider themselves to be a strong swimmer.

  Life Jackets - The Choice is Yours
  1. Get and wear a U.S. Coast Guard - approved life jacket (PFD) that's properly fitted.
  2. Check the manufacturers ratings for size and weight.  
  3. Check that the style is appropriate and approved for your specific boating activity.
  4. Check to see if it works - put it on, adjust it, and test it in the water so you will know how it will feel when needed. Do the same for family members, especially children.


  • Knowing what to expect in the water can prevent panic.
  • Non-swimmers should wear a life jacket on any small boat.
  • Whenever water conditions or weather cause concern, have everyone aboard immediately put on a life jacket

Life Jackets Float - You Don't!
Watch this video for information on why it is important to wear a life jacket.

Life Jacket Loaner Stations

Washington State Parks Boating Programs provides life jackets to boaters at public boating locations throughout the state. All life jackets were purchased through a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund which is administered by the U.S. Coast Guard's Recreational Boating Safety funds. 

Life jacket loaner stations are located at marinas, near boat ramps and at various state parks. Boaters and swimmers may borrow the life jackets for the day.

Your local county sheriff's departments and some police departments also have life jackets to loan. If you forgot your life jacket or need an extra one for guests onboard contact them for a loaner.

For more information regarding Washington's Life Jacket Loaner Program, contact or 360.902.8832