Drowning among personal watercraft passengers: the ability of personal flotation devices to preserve life on Arkansas waterways, 1994-1997

J Ark Med Soc. 1999 Aug;96(3):97-8.


Personal flotation devices (PFD) are promoted and in many states are required for safe boating practices and to prevent drowning. Primary use of PFDs is associated with water sports (water skiing, tubing, etc.), boating and other water activities. Their purpose is to preserve life and prevent drowning. However, their effectiveness to prevent drowning and near-drowning has not been well established. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effectiveness of PFDs to prevent drowning and near-drowning of individuals involved in personal watercraft (PWC) crashes. Methods include the 48-month collection of PWC crash data from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for 1994-1997. Information on PFD use, swimming experience, whether passengers were ejected from the watercraft and crash cause was queried. Results show that 38% were not swimmers, 98% wore a PFD and 54% were ejected from the PWC. Alcohol was a causal factor in six crashes and one death. It is estimated that PFDs saved 38 Arkansans who could have drowned. This study highlights one example of the effectiveness of PFDs to prevent mortality and morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arkansas / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Drowning / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protective Devices*
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • Ships / statistics & numerical data
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data
  • Swimming / statistics & numerical data