New Maryland Law Requires Children Under 13 to Wear a Personal Flotation Device

Maryland’s Governor has signed a bill into law to strengthen protection of children on Maryland waterways. Under the new law, effective immediately, any child under the age of 13 is required to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while aboard a vessel that is underway. The law will also require children under the age of 16 to possess a certificate of boating safety education before they can operate a vessel unless they are supervised by an adult or someone 16 or older who has a boating safety certificate, effective Oct. 1.

Formerly, any child under the age of seven had to wear a PFD on a recreational boat 21 feet or smaller, unless the boat is moored or anchored or the child is below deck in an enclosed cabin.

The State averages 12 boating related fatalities a year. In 2009, Maryland had 17 boating related fatalities;16 of the victims were not wearing PFDs.

“A life jacket is the single most important piece of safety equipment, but it doesn’t work unless you wear it,” said Natural Resources Police (NRP) Superintendent Colonel George Johnson. “This law will provide an added measure of safety for our children boating on Maryland waters. “

Raising the age requirement puts Maryland in line with federal regulations and 34 states, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, DC. The federal regulations do not supersede the state, but the National Transportation Safety Board strongly encourages states to update their PFD requirements.

The legislation was supported by the U.S. Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board, Safe Kids USA, National Boating Federation, National Safe Boating Council, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the Marine Retailers Association of America.

Existing Maryland law requires that anyone born on or after July 1, 1972 must have a Certificate of Boating Safety Education in order to operate a mechanically propelled vessel on Maryland waters. NRP offers both in-person and on-line boating safety courses to receive that certificate.

This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. http://www.dnr.state.md.us

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Filed under Boat Operation, Boating News, Boating Safety

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