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Life jackets important for boating safety

Memorial Day kicked off the boating season in South Carolina. But when you're having fun out on the water, always take care to avoid tragedy if you end up in it. Last year, of the 23 people who died in boating-related accidents, 91 percent died of drowning. 

The Department of Natural Resources released safety rules for boats, recommending that every boater has a personal flotation device or life vest. While a PFD cannot prevent an accident, it will reduce the risk of dying if you fall in the water. 

Rules about life jackets

All children under 12 must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD while on board a Class A vessel. It is important to make sure the life jacket fits the child and does not allow the chin or ears to slip through the neck hole. Although adults are not required to wear PFDs, the best way to make sure you have a life jacket when you need it is to wear it. Boats are also required to have throwable PFDs, such as a ring buoy or a cushion.

Taking care of your equipment

On some holiday weekends, DNR offers boat inspections at no charge and allowing boaters to fix problems without getting a ticket. A commonly seen problem is old or torn life jackets. You should test life jackets once a year for buoyancy and wear. If a jacket is waterlogged, faded or leaky, it should be replaced. Do not store other gear on top of the PFDs or stow them in plastic bags.

A life jacket may not be very fashionable and sometimes can be inconvenient, but if you go in the water, the PFD will often save your life. Boating accidents can be just as severe as a motor vehicle accident. If you or a loved one was injured or worse in a boating accident, you might want to talk to an attorney about the applicability of maritime law and the possible liability of the boat’s owner. 

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