Most experts know that life jackets are essential to preventing the ultimate catastrophe when at sea, but regardless, some still neglect the law and put themselves as well as others at risk. We all know how easy it is to return to the surface of a body of water with control over everything, but under very common circumstances, it can be nearly impossible to stay above water. In those cases, the wearable PFD will keep even the unwilling above water.
One of the biggest excuses people will give the U.S. Coast Guard for not wearing a life jacket is that they have life jackets on board ready for when they need it. Unfortunately, life jackets are made for emergencies where unexpected, fast occurrences render you and your passengers unable to keep yourselves afloat. This means that if an emergency were to occur where you needed to wear a life jacket, it would occur too fast for you to spend the time putting it on. In short, just having the life jacket on board is not good enough to prevent tragedy. The purpose of a personal flotation device in the first place is to be worn.
It is too hot and the water is not cold. The most radical instance of life jacket use is in the event of a sinkage in freezing waters which are known to paralyze the human body upon exposure. For anyone not traveling through international waters, it may have been a valid excuse to say the water isn’t cold enough. However, there are many more instances where a life jacket is absolutely necessary, one being if someone fell overboard into strong rip currents. Life jackets may be extremely insulating which will make someone very hot and sweaty on deck, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear it. Many people complain that they are uncomfortable and hot but that is a small byproduct of safety as with all protection comes with some limitation.
The last and worst excuse many give for not wearing a life jacket is that it doesn’t look cool. It may be bulky and sweaty but that does not matter when it comes to your family’s safety. Many also complain that it gets in the way of the natural navigation of the boat when it very well does not. If a life jacket is fitted right, it should not in any way impair your motor coordination.
The myths have now been debunked and we know the main reasons why people don’t want to wear life jackets. But taking into account the safety it provides to you and your crew, the small inconveniences it may cause are well worth it to keep you from drowning. Experts can agree and this is why many countries around the world mandate this simple safety device. Many news coverages of deaths at sea usually end with the headline “not wearing a lifejacket.” Hopefully the closest you’ll get to being in an article like that will be “thankfully, they were wearing a lifejacket.”