Why even the best swimmers need life jackets

Picture it: you’re out on a fishing boat, you’re unencumbered by a life jacket, and you feel freer than ever. Since they’re not legally required in many places for adults to wear, you feel confident in your decision, and you’ve always been a good swimmer anyway. So there’s nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.

An unfortunate myth about life jackets is that they are only truly needed by those who are weak swimmers. But as you will see, this is not the case. There are, in fact, many reasons why you should always wear a life jacket when out on the water.

What happens if you lose consciousness?

Losing consciousness while swimming
Losing consciousness while swimming

Of course, none of us think that we are going to be in a boating accident, no one ever does. Yet from either a sudden change of weather, an unexpected collision, or even a boat malfunction, you may find yourself flipped out of the boat and straight into the water. If you happen to hit your head during the ordeal, you run the risk of losing consciousness, making it likely that you will not survive if you’re not wearing a life jacket to keep yourself afloat.

You will never have time to put on a stored life jacket

Don’t just pack your life jacket – wear it.
Don’t just pack your life jacket – wear it.

A common thought with life jackets is that as long as they are on the boat with you, then you are covered. But a boating accident most often happens in a split second, and there won’t be any time to dig around and pull one out, get it clipped on and adjusted to your size. You will find yourself in the water without any kind of flotation device, putting yourself at risk of injury and fatality.

Stress and anxiety can override normal behaviors

If you find yourself in a dangerous boating incident, you will not be thinking clearly. Some people do operate well under that level of stress, but other people do shut down unexpectedly and panic in the water. Do not gamble with your life based on how you believe you would respond, not knowing for sure how you actually would respond.

Most drowning victims are adults

Keeping safe is not a fashion parade but a wearing life jacket can actually look pretty cool – especially if you find yourself unexpectedly dunked into icy water
Keeping safe is not a fashion parade but a wearing life jacket can actually look pretty cool – especially if you find yourself unexpectedly dunked into icy water

The law in most places is that people age 14 years or younger are required to wear a life jacket at all times on a boat. But only 20% of drowning victims are actually children, most likely because they are wearing their life jackets when they are supposed to. That leaves 80% of drowning victims to being adults.

Common excuses are not valid

Some common reasons for not wanting to wear a life jacket include: it’s too hot, too bulky, looks awful, and isn’t required. Life jackets are not what they used to be. They are not thick or hot any longer, being made up from lighter materials that will still help keep you afloat. Likewise, they are also not as unattractive as they once were, but really, just as a seat belt is not a fashion statement, neither should a life jacket be seen as one. Also, just because the laws are not dictating that you should wear one does not make it ok for you to ignore common sense.

Modern life jackets are surprisingly comfortable
Modern life jackets are surprisingly comfortable

Something else that you should consider outside of your own safety is the safety of your family or anyone boating with you. Not only will you serve as an excellent example of safety, but you will ensure that you will not become a risk to others who may have to try to save you in the event of boating accident. Have fun out there, but always be safe.

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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it. Outdoor Revival – Reconnecting us all with the Outdoors.


marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival