Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

Using the latest published US Coast Guard statistics, the number of fatalities in 2007 while boating in the United States was 685. Over two-thirds of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, ninety (90) percent were not wearing a life jacket. A horrible statistics when considering that many these victims’ lives would have been spared had they been wearing or had very ready access to USCG approved life jackets.

Tennessee – PFD Requirements

All children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket (Type I, II, III, or Type V) while on the open deck of a recreational boat except when anchored, moored, or aground

State and and Federal Flotation Device Regulations:

All boats, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one wearable PFD for each person on board or for each person being towed on water skis, etc.
Boats 16 feet in length or over (except canoes and kayaks) must also be equipped with one Type IV (throwable device) per boat in case someone falls overboard.
A USCG approved PFD must be worn by each person on board vessels being operated within specifically marked areas below dams.

Important Points

PFDs must be Coast Guard approved (Type I, II, III or Type V)
PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition
PFD must be the appropriate size for the intended user. Try it on; see that is fits
Child PFD approvals are based on the child’s weight; check the “User Weight” on the label. Also choose life jackets of bright colors, preferably orange or red.
PFDs must be readily accessible; not stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or have other gear stowed on top of them
USCG approved inflatable PFDs are only authorized for use by persons at least 16 years of age. They are not recommended for non-swimmers.
PFDs labeled “Type V” must be worn to be counted toward the minimum PFDs on board requirement.
Even if not required, every boater should wear a PFD in dangerous conditions. Any time you feel you are in danger or simply apprehensive about a situation, remember the following: if in doubt, get it out, and put it on.
The best PFD is the one you will wear so pay close attention to its condition, fit and location on the boat.
Anyone operating or riding on a personal watercraft MUST have a pfd.

Detailed descriptions of the various “Types” of Coast Guard approved PFDs can be found in the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency pamphlet “Tennessee Boating”. This pamphlet is available during our monthly Membership Meeting at the Membership Table.

Don’t you or any of your boat mates become an unnecessary statistic. Establish a close relationship with your PFD each time you get underway.

Need to borrow a few PFDs for a short time? Visit our PFD Loaner Program.


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