Understanding Florida’s Life Jacket Law: What You Need to Know

Florida’s Mandatory Life Jacket Law

Florida Life Jacket Law Image

Florida is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States, with stunning beaches, enormous fishing grounds, and magnificent waterways. It is home to numerous attractions, including theme parks, beautiful inland lakes, and world-class museums. All these features attract locals and tourists who enjoy swimming, boating, angling, and other water-based activities.

However, enjoying water activities can always come with risks and dangers. One of the significant threats is drowning, which is often avoidable by wearing a life jacket. The state of Florida recognizes the importance of life safety jackets in all water-based activities. For this reason, the state has implemented legislation aimed at enforcing the mandatory use of life jackets in all watercrafts to ensure the safety of boaters and other water enthusiasts.

The Florida life jacket law also known as the “Children’s Life Jacket Law,” went into effect on July 1st, 2009, to reduce deaths related to drowning of children under six years of age within Florida waters. The law became necessary due to the increasing number of drowning incidents that occurred primarily because of children not wearing a life jacket while out on the water. The regulations were expanded and updated in 2017, extending the coverage beyond children under six years of age. The new regulations extended the life jacket requirements to all children under 13 years of age, whenever a boat is underway.

The Florida law requires that all recreational vessels less than 26 feet in length, including watercrafts utilizing internal combustion, steam or electric propulsion, must carry a US Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board. The number and types of life jackets required are based on the size of the boat and the number of people on board. For example, vessels 16 feet and longer must also have a throwable Type IV device, which can be thrown to a victim.

The law exempts people who are operating a vessel while fishing and passengers on “parasailing vessels.” Other than these exemptions, the law applies to all watercrafts in Florida waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are responsible for enforcing the Florida life jacket law, and failure to follow the regulations could lead to fines and/or imprisonment.

It’s crucial for all residents and visitors in Florida to understand the importance of life jackets while engaging in water-based activities. Florida officials advise that wearing a life jacket while swimming, boating, or engaging in any water sports is the key to avoiding water accidents and keeping safe. Florida’s life jacket law aims to increase awareness of these life-saving devices and to save lives by helping prevent drowning incidents.

Who Must Wear Life Jackets While Boating in Florida?

Florida Life Jacket Law Boating

Florida is a popular destination for boaters due to its numerous waterways and beautiful weather. As a result, the state has strict laws in place to ensure the safety of boaters and passengers. One such law is the Florida life jacket law, which mandates that all boaters must have access to an approved flotation device, or life jacket, on board their vessel. However, there are certain exceptions to this law.

1. Children

Florida Life Jacket Law Boating Children

The Florida life jacket law requires that all children under the age of six, regardless of the length of the vessel, must wear an approved life jacket while on board any vessel underway. This includes situations where the boat is anchored or drifting. For children between the ages of six and 16, they must wear a life jacket when on vessels under 26 feet while the boat is underway or when the boat is less than 26 feet and in emergency situations. For larger vessels, it is recommended that children wear life jackets whenever possible.

2. Paddlecraft Users

Florida Life Jacket Law Boating Paddlecraft

Another group that is required to wear life jackets while on the water in Florida are paddlecraft users. Paddlecraft includes canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, as well as any other vessel powered solely by hand. The Florida life jacket law requires that all paddlecraft users must have an approved life jacket on board their vessel, and anyone under the age of six must wear the life jacket at all times while on board. Additionally, the life jacket must be worn by everyone on board the paddlecraft when the vessel is underway, including when it is paddling, drifting, or anchored.

It is important to note that accidents can happen at any time while on the water. Even the most experienced boaters and swimmers can fall victim to an unexpected emergency. It is important to always be prepared by having an approved life jacket on board and wearing it when necessary to ensure the safety of you, your passengers, and others on the water.

Types of Life Jackets that Meet Florida’s Requirements

life jacket

A life jacket is an essential safety gear that is worn by individuals to avoid drowning in case of an accident. Florida state law mandates people to wear life jackets when engaging in specific water activities. The law applies to everyone, including children, paddlers, swimmers, and boaters. Life jackets come in various shapes, sizes, and styles, and it is crucial to choose one that meets Florida state’s requirements. The following types of life jackets meet Florida’s legal requirements:

1. TYPE II Life Jackets:

Type II Life Jacket

Type II life jackets are approved for all types of water activities, including fishing, paddling, and waterskiing. They provide better head support and will keep people afloat on their backs. Type II life jackets are not suitable for children below five years old or people engaging in high-speed water activities such as jet skiing or wakeboarding.

2. TYPE III Life Jackets:

Type III Life Jacket

Type III life jackets are lightweight, comfortable and are approved for most water activities, including kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding. They provide excellent mobility and flexibility but do not offer the same amount of head support as Type II jackets, which means they are not suitable for people who can’t swim.


Inflatable Life Jacket

Inflatable life jackets are the most comfortable and popular type of life jacket used by boaters and sailors. They provide excellent buoyancy and are designed to be compact, lightweight, and very comfortable. They are suitable for any water activity and are approved by the US Coast Guard. Inflatable life jackets come in two types, manual and automatic, both of which inflate when in contact with water. The manual type requires the wearer to pull a cord to inflate the life jacket while the automatic type inflates automatically when submerged in water. They are not recommended for non-swimmers, children below sixteen years old, or people engaging in high-speed water activities such as jet skiing or wakeboarding. Inflatable life jackets also require regular maintenance, including testing, re-arming, and servicing, to ensure they are in good working condition.


In conclusion, life jackets are essential safety gear that should be worn by anyone engaging in water activities in Florida waters. It is vital to choose a life jacket that meets Florida state law requirements. Type II, type III, and inflatable life jackets are approved by the US Coast Guard and meet Florida state law requirements. Choose a type that suits the activity, age, and skill level and ensure it fits correctly and is in good working condition. Remember, a life jacket can save a life, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Penalties for Violating Florida’s Life Jacket Law

Florida Life Jacket Law Violations

Florida has strict laws regarding life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) for boaters and passengers. The state emphasizes that PFDs are essential safety equipment that can save lives, especially during boating accidents. Florida Life Jacket Law includes various provisions and penalties to ensure that everyone follows the rules.

Section 327.50 of Florida Statutes clearly defines that anyone born in or after 1988 must wear a US Coast Guard-approved PFD while onboard a vessel that’s under 26 feet in length during operation on navigable waters. Minor children under the age of six must always wear PFDs, regardless of the vessel’s length.

If you are boating with friends or family members who are not wearing their PFDs, you may face serious penalties. Here are some consequences of violating Florida’s Life Jacket Law:

  1. Monetary Penalties
  2. If a law enforcement officer catches you or your passengers not wearing PFDs, expect to receive a fine. The penalty amount varies, depending on the number of violations. Typically, your first offense may cost you several hundred dollars, and subsequent violations can be much more expensive.

  3. Criminal Misdemeanor Charges
  4. If you are the boat operator and violate the Life Jacket Law, you can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor offense. Although this is not the case for first-time offenders, repeat violators can face harsher penalties, including jail time and hefty fines.

  5. Civil Citations
  6. Aside from criminal penalties, violators of Florida’s Life Jacket Law can also receive civil citations, which may lead to additional fines. Civil citations result from less severe violations, such as if someone is not wearing an appropriate PFD while operating a personal watercraft.

  7. Boating Education Course
  8. Florida Boater Safety Course

    In some cases, individuals who violate the Life Jacket Law may be required to take a boater safety education course, which can be quite time-consuming and expensive. This is especially common for repeat offenders or those who engage in reckless behavior while boating.

    In conclusion, always wear your PFD when boating in Florida. Not only is it the law, but it is also a vital piece of equipment that can keep you and your loved ones safe on the water. Neglecting to do so can result in hefty fines, criminal charges, and more. To learn more about Florida’s Life Jacket Law and other boating regulations, visit http://www.myfwc.com/boating/.

Safety Tips for Boaters While Wearing Life Jackets in Florida

Florida Life Jacket Law

If you are planning on boating in the state of Florida, wearing a life jacket is not only a good idea, but it is also the law. Florida law requires that children under the age of six wear a life jacket at all times while onboard a vessel. Additionally, anyone operating a vessel must have a personal flotation device (PFD) for each person onboard the vessel. It is vital to ensure that PFDs fit correctly, are in good condition, and are readily accessible in case of an emergency.

1. Check the Weather Forecast

Weather Forecast

Florida is well known for its unpredictable weather, and it is essential to check the forecast before heading out on the water. Thunderstorms, high winds, and rough waters can quickly turn a fun day on the water into a dangerous situation. Ensure that you are aware of any weather or warning advisories and take them seriously.

2. Wear the Right Type of Life Jacket

Life Jacket Types

Life jackets come in different sizes, shapes, and buoyancy levels. It is essential to choose the right type of life jacket based on your weight, activities planned, and boating location. Different types of life jackets are suitable for different boating activities, such as water skiing, fishing, or paddling. Ensure that the life jacket you select is approved by the US Coast Guard and fits correctly.

3. Always Wear Your Life Jacket

Life Jacket

Wearing a life jacket is not just a good idea; it is the law in Florida. Regardless of your swimming abilities or experience, always wear a life jacket when boating. Accidents can happen suddenly, and a well-fitted life jacket can help you stay afloat until help arrives. Also, make sure that your life jacket is fastened correctly and not too loose.

4. Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings


Boating accidents can happen for many reasons, including collisions with fixed objects or other boats. It is crucial to always keep an eye on your surroundings, including obstacles in the water, other boats, and any hazards that may be present. Additionally, always operate your vessel at a safe speed and maintain a safe distance from other boats.

5. Maintain Your Life Jacket

Maintain Life Jacket

Properly maintaining your life jacket is just as important as wearing it. Inspect your life jacket regularly for any signs of wear or damage, such as tears, rips, or missing buckles. If your life jacket shows any signs of damage, replace it immediately. Additionally, ensure that your life jacket is stored in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent mold and mildew from growing. When not in use, hang your life jacket on a hanger or lay it flat to prevent any creases or wrinkles from forming.

By following these safety tips, you can ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable boating experience in Florida. Remember, wearing a life jacket is not just a good idea; it is the law!

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *