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Florida Life Jacket Laws & Requirements

November 29, 2022

Life jackets aren’t just for weak swimmers and children. They can save your life if you are unexpectedly thrown overboard or become too tired, injured or cold to keep yourself afloat. While not required by law, the state of Florida strongly recommends that life jackets be worn at all times while boating. Find out the legal requirements for life jacket and PFD use in Florida.

PFD requirements in Florida

Vessels in the state of Florida are required to carry one personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board. According to Florida boating regulations, these PFDs must be:

  • Approved by the United States Coast Guard
  • The correct size for the intended wearer
  • The correct type for the intended activity
  • In serviceable condition (i.e. not ripped, punctured, rotted or otherwise damaged)
  • Readily accessible (i.e. not stowed in a bag or closed compartment)

In addition to wearable PFDs, vessels that are 16 ft or longer must be equipped with at least one US Coast Guard-approved throwable PFD (Type IV under the old system) that is readily accessible in the event that someone falls overboard.

Changes to the Coast Guard PFD labelling system

The way the US Coast Guard labels PFDs has recently changed to harmonize with the Canadian system. The old system marked each PFD with an intended use and a type: I, II, III, IV or V. The new system uses icons to indicate what the PFD is not approved for and lists its performance level: 50, 70, 100, 150 or 275. Check the United States Coast Guard website for further details.

Note that PFDs and life jackets labelled under the old system are still approved for use in the US as long as they are still in serviceable condition.

Florida life jacket age requirements

In Florida, children under the age of 6 on vessels under 26 ft in length must be wearing a USCG-approved PFD (Type I, II or II under the old system) at all times while underway, meaning anytime the boat is not anchored, moored or grounded.
In federal waters, children under the age of 13 must be wearing a USCG-approved PFD while underway, except when they are below deck or inside a closed cabin.

Florida PFD laws for other types of boating activities

Individuals who engage in towed water sports or water skiing in Florida are required to be wearing a USCG-approved PFD that is not inflatable. The same requirements apply to operators and passengers on personal watercraft (PWCs) in Florida. Inflatable PFDs are banned for these activities.

Learn more about Florida boating regulations with Drive a Boat USA!

Florida has plenty of laws in place to keep boaters safe on state waters. This includes a requirement for individuals born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to hold a Boating Safety Education Identification Card in order to operate a motorized vessel of 10 or more horsepower. Even though older boaters don’t need to pass the Florida boat exam, it’s still worth taking the course to learn about state boating regulations and safety measures.

Drive a Boat USA offers a boating safety course that can be completed entirely online. Study the materials, take the exam and obtain your Florida Boating Safety ID Card from the comfort of your own home! Get started today.