Boat & Water Safety

Laws & Regulations


Water recreation

Selecting a life jacket for your child

Selecting a life jacket for a child. This slideshow requires the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

Special thanks to Joe's Sporting Goods for allowing us to videotape in their store.

As of May 2005, Minnesota law requires a life jacket to be worn by children less than 10 years of age when aboard watercraft in Minnesota when the craft is under way (not tied up at a dock or permanent mooring).

What is a life jacket and why does my child need to wear one?

A life jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard approved device that helps the wearer float if they enter the water.

A child should wear a life jacket anytime they are near water such as in a boat or float tube as well as on docks and river banks and at the beach when allowed by the life guard.

Contrary to many TV shows and the movies, drowning is usually silent. A victim (of any age) in the process of drowning can NOT cry out for help. They just bob up and down in the water, their head tipped back, mouth wide open gasping for air, and they are silent. It takes as little as 30 - 45 seconds for a child non-swimmer and it usually happens when an adult is nearby but doesn't recognize the telltale signs of a child in distress in the water.

Get your kids interested in water safety. Download and print the Water Safety Coloring & Activity Book or the H2O Toons Comic Book. These publications are in PDF format.

Find a safe fit for your child

How do I make sure I'm using the right life jacket?

If you own a boat or plan on renting a boat or boating with a friend, you need to buy your child their own life jacket. Life jackets come in various types and sizes and there may not be a life jacket of the proper size and type to rent or borrow.

When buying a child's life jacket, check for:

Remember: life jackets only work when they are worn, and they do not take the place of adult supervision!

Proper use of a life jacket

Here's some pointers for keeping your child safe.

Adult life jackets

More information about life jackets can be found in the Minnesota DNR Boating Guide (1.82 Mb) Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to download this file..

Exemptions from wearing

The following are exemptions to the law:

Interaction with existing federal regulations

Interaction with existing federal regulation requiring children less than 13 to wear life jackets:
"Federal regulation automatically adopts state law as the standard under Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 33 175.25"