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PFD / LIFE JACKET SAFETY LAWS FOR ALL 50 STATES FOR KAYAK FISHING & BOATING

Written by Gary Lacey on January 06, 2022

As we kick off a new year, it's an awesome time to appreciate how kayaking, kayak fishing, and boating are all amazing ways to really enjoy Mother Nature's amazing waterways and the outdoor gifts she offers – whether your local waters are still accessible or covered in ice. However, each state has its own safety laws around the usage of personal floatation devices (PFDs) designed to ensure you stay safe on the water, no matter what the temperature or time of year. Because that is the goal every time you and your family or friends hit the water = For you, and anyone else you have with you, to stay safe while having paddling and having fun.

That's why Vibe constantly reinforces the importance of PFDs all twelve months out of the year, and recommends everyone on the water complete a Boater’s Education Course for your state. Vibe purposefully offers some of the best PFDs to ensure both safety and optimum convenience for any activity.

The Most Common Question: Do I Have To Wear a PFD?

The most common asked question amongst paddler of all ages and experience levels is this: "Do I have to wear a lifejacket in a kayak?"

The short answer is "yes".

The long answer is in most states the laws read that there must be at least one U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type I,II, or III lifejacket (PFD) per person onboard the vessel (your kayak). That lifejacket must be in good serviceable condition, be sized appropriately for the person intended to wear it, and is must be readily available. In addition, lifejackets must be worn by children according to that state’s minimum PFD age law.

While it's tempting to take your personal flotation device (PFD) off, or not even wear one at all – not wearing a PFD and not knowing the safety resources for such critical gear can jeopardize your life and those paddling with you.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, most boating-related (and that includes kayaks) drownings happen on nice days and by those considered good swimmers. In fact, according to the US Coast Guard Stats (2019), drowning resulted in 79% of all recreational boating deaths. Of those, 86% were not wearing their life jackets. Two-thirds were reported as being “good” swimmers.

Each State Has Its Own Regulations

Each state has a slight variation on the minimum age that must wear a lifejacket, and a few states have specific rules about when adults must also physically wear a lifejacket. So please read your state’s individual life jacket laws for specific detailed rules and regulations. Below is a summation for each state's laws regarding PFD usage, but it should not be taken as legal advice nor considered comprehensive legal information. Please consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area if you require more detailed and current data.

 

Kayak Life Jacket Laws Summary

In general, all life jackets, and this pertains to most states, must: ¬ Be U.S. Coast Guard approved ¬ Be in good serviceable condition ¬ Be the proper size by weight for the intended wearer ¬ Fit properly when worn ¬ Be worn by children according to that state’s minimum PFD age law ¬ Be readily accessible

Vibe has a number of excellent articles on choosing and using a PFD to learn more.

Kayak Life Jacket Laws By State

NOTE: In states with no life jacket law for children, the U.S. Coast Guard regulations state that children under 13, while on boats that are underway, must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket, sized and fitted appropriately.

In general, all the information on kayaking laws below pertains to kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards. Most states now consider them all to be “vessels” and subject to boating laws.

DISCLAIMER: The following are only summaries of each state’s life jacket laws. We strongly suggest you research the laws pertinent to your individual state to read more specifics regarding your state’s PFD and kayaking laws. As always, these resources are informational only and not meant to replace your own investigation into state laws, statutes, rules and regulations.

Alabama Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One life jacket per person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Anyone under 8Approved life jackets: USCG Type I, II, or III

Alaska Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One life jacket per person on board, readily available. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Anyone under 13Approved life jackets: USCG Type I, II, III, or V in some situations

Arizona Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One life jacket per person on board, readily available. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG Type I, II, III, or V in some situations

Arkansas Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One life jacket per person on board, readily available. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG approved

California Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One life jacket per person on board, readily available. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III or V

Colorado Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: A vessel less than 16 feet must have one wearable PFD, readily available, onboard for each person. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: All children under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD

Connecticut Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: one PFD for each person on board. With a rule unique to Connecticut, that anyone in a manually propelled vessel must actually wear their PFD from October 1 through May 31. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Children 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved

Delaware Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One PFD on board per person and children 12 and under must wear a life jacket. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III or V

Florida Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: A wearable PFD for each person Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Children under 6Approved life jackets: USCG-approved I, II, or III

Georgia Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: A wearable USCG Type I, II, III, or V PFD for each person – in good condition and readily accessible.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Children 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved

Hawaii Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device for each person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Children 12 and under must wear itApproved life jackets: USCG-approved

Idaho Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One life jacket on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Kids 14 years and younger must wear their life jacket on all boats 19′ and under.Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Illinois Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One Type I, II, III personal flotation device on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Indiana Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One Type I, II, III, or V USCG approved PFD on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Iowa Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One Type I, II, III, or V life jacket on board per person in all kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Kansas Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One Type I, II, III, or V life jacket on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, or III, or V PFD

Kentucky Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One Type I, II, or III PFD on board per personMinimum age to wear a life jacket: Children 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved

Louisiana Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: Each person on board must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD while underway on a motorboat less than 16 feet long that’s using an outboard motor and is steered by a hand tiller or steering arm attached to the motor. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 16 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V

Maine Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One Type I, II, III, or V USCG-approved PFD on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 10 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V

Maryland Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One Type I, II, III or V USCG-approved PFD on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under the age of 13. Children under 4 must wear a PFD that has additional safety features (see ” Maryland Kayaking Laws – MD” link below).Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Massachusetts Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: One Type I, II, III USCG-approved PFD on board per person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Life jackets must be worn by canoeists and kayakers from September 15 – May 15, and at all times by youth under 12.Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III

Michigan Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: One Type I, II, or III USCG-approved PDF on board per person. On kayaks and canoes can alternatively choose to have a Type IV throwable on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 6Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I or II

Minnesota Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of Type I, II or III for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 10Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, or III

Mississippi Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of Type I, II or III for each person on boardMinimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, or III

Missouri Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels must have at least one wearable life vest for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 7Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V

Montana Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: If two or more persons are on a sailboard, each person must wear a PFDMinimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 12: Sailboard operators under 15 must wear a PFD at all times.Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Nebraska Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels (motorized and non-motorized, except for sailboards) must have one life jacket for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III or V

Nevada Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

New Hampshire Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels, including kayaks and canoes, must have a PFD for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, or III

New Jersey Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device for each person on boardMinimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III or V

New Mexico Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: Anyone on a kayak or canoe must wear a personal flotation device the entire time they are in the vessel.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or IV

New York Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 12Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD

North Carolina Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD

North Dakota Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: For all non-motorized vessels, there must be a Coast Guard approved personal floatation device onboard for each person.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 10 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD

Ohio Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels must have one United States Coast Guard approved wearable personal flotation device for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 10Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Oklahoma Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Oregon Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels must be equipped with a PFD for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Pennsylvania Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All kayakers through the dates of November 1 and April 30 must wear a life jacket. A life jacket must be on board at all times of year.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

Rhode Island Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All vessels must have one Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved PFD

South Carolina Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All vessels must be equipped with a wearable, USCG approved life jacket for each person on board or being towed.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 12Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, III or V

South Dakota Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board.Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 7Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Tennessee Life Jacket LawsKayak life vest law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on boardMinimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I,II, III or V PFD

Texas Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Utah Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Vermont Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 12. Anyone under 16 while sailboarding. Approved life jackets: USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD

Virginia Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Washington Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved

West Virginia Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: 12 and underApproved life jackets: USCG-approved

Wisconsin Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: U.S.C.G. under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

Wyoming Life Jacket LawsKayak life jacket law: All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person. Minimum age to wear a life jacket: Under 13Approved life jackets: USCG-approved

The whole point of being out on the water is to have an awesome time and to make memories. Wearing a PFD – and making sure your friends, family and others wear them – will ensure everyone stays alive to make memories for years to come. Get out there and be safe!

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