Minnesota poised to pass PFD bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Legislature is poised to pass a law requiring children younger than 10 to wear life jackets while on a moving boat, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported in a story today.

On Thursday, the Senate, which had approved life-jacket requirements for children in March, voted 40-26 to accept the changes made by the House. The House is expected to pass the bill again next week, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will sign it into law, the newspaper reported.

Sen. Mady Reiter, R-Shoreview, was among the senators who opposed the bill during both votes. She said the bill is overreaching and statistics show it may be unnecessary. While boat registrations have grown tremendously since 1965, when there were 215,695 boats and 17.20 deaths per 100,000 registrations, death rates have dropped significantly. There are 854,110 registered boats today and 2.07 deaths per 100,000 registered boats.

“A lot of people do (wear life jackets), but we don’t have to legislate it. People tend to do for their children what is good for them,” Reiter told the newspaper. “It’s difficult to enforce, and it didn’t serve the purpose for which it was intended.”

Current state regulations say U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices must be “readily available” for each person on the boat. Only people on water skis or scooters are mandated to wear them.

The bill approved by the Senate also exempts children who are below the top deck or in an enclosed cabin from having to wear the life jacket. The law does not apply to commercial watercraft licensed to carry passengers or if the boat is anchored so that passengers could swim or dive, the Pioneer Press reported.

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