Utah State Parks Blog

Utah officials push life jackets, release new PSA as Memorial Day approaches

SALT LAKE CITY — Memorial Day is around the corner, and Utah State Parks officials are urging the public to wear their life jackets as Utahns gear up for the start of the recreation season.

Utah has already experienced 3 water-related deaths within the last two weeks. Unfortunately, none of those involved in these tragedies were wearing life jackets at the time of the incidents.

“Life jackets are essential pieces of safety gear for anyone venturing out onto the water,” Ty Hunter, Utah State Parks Boating Program Coordinator, said. “Nationally, 80% of people who drowned in boating accidents would have survived had they been wearing a life jacket.”

Utah law requires that there must be at least one properly sized U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person aboard a vessel. Life jackets must be readily accessible and not in an out-of-reach location or in original packaging.  

New Public Service Announcement

The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation Boating Program is officially kicking off their recreation season by releasing a new Public Service Announcement highlighting the importance of life jacket wear.

In recent years, the PSAs released by the Boating Program have included both serious and humorous videos that all highlight the same message, “Wear your life jacket.”

“We’ve received some positive feedback with these recent PSA’s,” Hunter said. “While some of them may seem a little quirky or corny, you’ll remember the message.”

This most recent PSA from the Boating Program marks the return of “Big Roy,” a popular character from the program’s past PSAs. Utah State Parks also plans on continuing to push PSAs that take on a more serious note this season.  

Types of Life Jackets

With recent advancements in technology, there now exist many different types of life jackets available for those in the market.

“Gone are the days of only wearing the big orange floaties your grandpa had,” Hunter said. “While those types of floatation devices still have their place, there are so many options available now that finding the perfect life jacket for your activity is easier than ever.”

Recently, the popularity of inflatable life jackets has risen. These jackets utilize a CO2 cartridge to inflate to a usable, and USCG approved, life jacket. Options for these type of jackets include auto-inflation — which automatically inflates when the jacket hits the water — and manual inflation — which utilize a pull cord to initiate the CO2 cartridge. These inflatables come in both a suspender style and a waist/belt style.

Some of these PFDs (personal floatation devices) must be worn at all times in order to count as an onboard life jacket and are not to be utilized while on rivers, using personal watercraft like jet skis, or being towed behind a vessel in things such as tubes or skis.

Other types of life jackets include offshore, near-shore, floatation aids, and throwables. It is important to utilize each life jacket for its intended use.

Visit our official life jacket webpage for more information on life jacket laws, rules, and best practices. 

Who Needs to Wear a Life Jacket?

  • Children under 13 years of age are required to wear their life jackets.
  • Participants engaged in towing activities, anyone on a PWC, river sections that are not designated as flat water are required to wear a life jacket.
  • Any boat 16’ and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must carry a throwable PFD called a Type IV.
  • Throwable devices must be immediately available for use such as in the cockpit or near the helm.
  • Utah law requires that there must be at least one properly sized U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard a vessel.
  • While not required by law, Utah State Parks highly recommends that everyone wear a life jacket when out on the water.

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