Trends in life jacket wear among recreational boaters: a dozen years (1999-2010) of US observational data

J Public Health Policy. 2012 Feb;33(1):59-74. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2011.55. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


We report results from 12 years of US observational data on life jacket use among recreational boaters based on more than 480,000 boaters in 175,000 boats between 1999 and 2010. The overall wear rate was 21.7 per cent, with sharp differences by age and boat types. We found strong increasing trends in wear rates among youth boaters, but among adults, the only increase was on sailboats. The increasing trend among youth is probably due to a combination of expanding laws for mandatory life jacket use among this age group, and targeted educational campaigns promoting life jacket use for children. Future efforts to increase the prevalence of life jacket wear should target groups with low wear rates and boaters on boats most likely to capsize. Policymakers should give serious consideration to regulations requiring adult boaters to wear life jackets while boating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Accident Prevention / trends*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ships / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ships / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Young Adult