Cold weather always brings added safety precautions for those who recreate outdoors but, for those living in Pennsylvania, these precautions are the law.

As of 2012, anyone aboard a boat less than 16 feet in length must wear a coast guard approved life jacket between the dates of November 1st and April 30th. This law is a direct response to a disturbingly high number of avoidable deaths caused by negligible life jacket use – a number that only grows during the colder months.

Our very own Pete Bowman had this to say:

“Google the words ‘death statistics due to no life jacket‘ and see what you come up with.

We did and the top of the list said “Recent Coast Guard statistics tell us that at least 85% of the victims of fatal boating-related accidents were not wearing their life jackets at the time of their emergency. Sadly, these deaths may have been prevented if life jackets had been worn when they were needed most.”

It didn’t say which Coast Guard but honestly, that doesn’t matter. The above happens worldwide. The truth is plain and simple. An angler or boater has a much higher chance of drowning by not wearing a PFD than one that does OR you can put it, an angler’s chance of survival is much higher by wearing a PFD if an accident on the water were to occur.”

Why The Winters Are More Dangerous:

The date range set for this law is no accident – boating is significantly more dangerous during the colder times of the year and lifejackets are essential to ensuring you get home from your day on the water.

No matter how good of a swimmer you are, the freezing water temperatures we see in the late fall and winter will quite literally take your breath away. This is what is known as cold water shock – an involuntary gasp followed by hyperventilation and breathlessness that occurs when the body is plunged into cold water. This response makes lifejackets essential when temperatures begin plummeting into the 60s and 50s as they provide the only assurance that your head will be above water when this unavoidable bodily response occurs.

In addition to just keeping your head out of the water, lifejackets also make it much easier to get back to safety when the effects of the cold start setting in. The risk of hypothermia really starts ramping up when temperatures dip below 70 degrees. The effects of hypothermia, which include confusion and the inability to use your limbs, make swimming virtually impossible and, once temperatures approach the 50s, you only have about 90 minutes before more fatal symptoms begin setting in. This makes a lifejacket crucial for even the strongest of swimmers as no amount of training or experience can prevent the harsh realities of exposure to cold water.

Pete and Ang’s Take:

“We have no idea as to why anglers don’t make something like an inflatable PFD as part of their daily fishing equipment,” says Ang. 

“Most anglers wear a hat,” continues Pete “and part of the reason is to protect the face from harmful UV sun rays. Lately, people are wearing face buffs and gloves for the same reason… protection from the sun. Why not protect a little thing called your life?”

“If it’s a cost issue,” says Ang “come on, anglers have no problem paying two to three hundred bucks as a minimum per rod and reel combo (one of many), so the price of an inflatable should be well within their fishing budget”.

The boys both agree that after a few times out, you’ll be so used to wearing an inflatable that it becomes part of your gear and putting it on will be second nature.

They also agree that the Pennsylvania Mandatory PFD Wearing law sets a good precedence.

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