Opposition helps deflate mandatory PFD initiative

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A proposal to require mandatory use of personal floatation devices met with near unanimous opposition from the recreational boating community during a forum conducted last week by the National Transportation Safety Board, BoatU.S. said in a press release today.

The forum was convened to seek input regarding the proposal – which would have required boaters to wear a life jacket while underway in a boat – but ended with little support for the idea, BoatU.S. said.

Speaking before a crowded auditorium filled with boating safety experts, federal and state officials and interest group representatives, BoatU.S. president Jim Ellis urged boaters to wear their life jackets when necessary, but argued for a new generation of inexpensive personal flotation devices.

Ellis said new PFD’s – which boaters would actually wear rather than stow in a locker on board a boat – were needed to reduce the number of drownings.

BoatU.S. said of the approximately 700 boating fatalities each year, about 400 are drownings in which the victim was not wearing a life jacket. It is estimated that as many as 75 million Americans go boating at least once each year and that the cost to the boating public of having to purchase a life jacket they would actually wear could exceed $1 billion.

"Forcing all boaters to wear an uncomfortable life jacket on a hot day when there is no perceived risk has little support among the boating public," said Ellis, in releasing the results of a survey conducted last month by the Recreational Marine Research Center of Michigan State University at the request of BoatU.S.

According to the survey of nearly 10,000 boaters, 86 percent of those responding opposed a mandatory life jacket requirement.

"A broad-brush, one-size-fits-all approach will not solve this problem," said Ellis who urged the NTSB and the Coast Guard to conduct more thorough research on the causes of boating fatalities before issuing more regulations.

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