When it comes to choosing a lifejacket, most boaters probably don’t give it a lot of thought, often just grabbing something that meets basic requirements and then stowing it away.

But a good personal floatation device is a boater’s most important piece of boating equipment. Statistics show that more than 80 percent of boaters who drown are not wearing lifejackets. And most of those drowning victims could swim. Most fatal boating accidents are entirely preventable if people do one simple thing: wear a lifejacket.

If you avoid wearing a lifejacket because you think it would be too hot and uncomfortable, or it would mess up your tan lines, new PFD designs and technology have made lifejackets so comfortable and even stylish that there’s no excuse not to wear one.

For your PFD to work properly, it has to be the right match for you. Here are a few tips for picking out and wearing a lifejacket:

  • Make sure your life jacket is Coast Guard-approved.
  • Check the manufacturer’s label to make sure the jacket is a proper fit for you.
  • Check that the jacket is appropriate for your activity.
  • Make sure your jacket is properly fastened and that it doesn’t ride up over your chin or face.
  • Make sure children are wearing properly-fitted, child-sized life jackets.