Life Jackets Save Lives – Wear It!

Life jackets are the single most effective piece of safety gear in a boat. Study after study show that if you wear a life jacket, you are more likely to survive if something goes wrong. Anyone can drown regardless of age and swimming capabilities. Especially in cold water, which Washington's waterways are cold year-round.

Life-saving tip: A life jacket only works if you wear it. 

Many people assume merely having life jackets on board is sufficient. However, accidents happen rapidly and without warning. There is not always enough time to grab a life jacket, which is why they should always be worn. Today's life jackets are designed to be more comfortable. We encourage you to shop around and find a comfortable life jacket you'll actually use. Although the state only requires children to wear a life jacket, adults are encouraged to wear one, especially on vessels less than 21 feet long, which are at a higher risk of capsizing. Adults set a good example for children by wearing life jackets.

Coupon for 25% discount off a life jacket (PDF).

Adult and children wearing life jackets

Know the following about life jackets:

  1. Make sure you know the federal and state laws in addition to local ordinances.
  2. Understand the different types of life jackets. The most appropriate one for you to wear depends on your location and water activity.
  3. Learn how to properly fit life jackets for you and your family.
  4. Know where to find an extra life jacket. There are free loaner stations throughout the state.
  5. Learn about the Wear It campaign, and pledge to always wear your life jacket while on the water.
  1. Life Jacket Laws
  2. Types of Life Jackets
  3. Fitting a Life Jacket
  4. Life Jacket Loaner Stations

State law requires all vessels (including canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards) must carry at least one properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket (Personal Flotation Device) for each person on board a vessel.

Additional state laws:

  • Children 12 years old and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
  • Each person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) and anyone being towed behind a boat must wear an appropriate U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV (throwable) flotation device must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement.

Contact your local police or sheriff's department or home owner's association to find out if there's additional ordinances. If you're on federal waterways, be sure to know the life jacket laws that may apply.