New Life Jacket Law for Pennsylvania

This new regulation comes as a result of overwhelming statistics. Anyone in a canoe or kayak, or on a boat less than 16 feet, will be required to wear a life jacket from Nov. 1 through April 30, which is the period most noted for cold-water temperatures. This regulation will go into effect Nov. 1, 2012. 

Actually, cold-water shock might occur whenever water temperature is less than 70 degrees. This causes an involuntary gasp that often results in water being sucked into the lungs. Cold-water shock also can cause hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to breathe. Swimming or treading water can become very difficult.

Statistics show that from November through April there is a disproportionate number of boating-incident fatalities, especially when the relatively few number of people go boating during that time frame is factored into the issue. Over the past 15 years, only 8 percent of boating-related accidents occurred during this cold-water period, but these accidents accounted for 24 percent of the boating fatalities.

After the required 60-day period for public comment, 37 comments were received. Actually, eight of those came before the official comment period, and one came after. The Fish and Boat Commission goes to great lengths to listen to the public. Most comments opposed the proposal. Unnecessary government regulation and intrusion on personal decisions were the primary objections.

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