Children Younger Than 13 Must Wear a Life Vest in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina law requires children younger than 13 years of age to wear an appropriate life vest whenever they are on a recreational vessel that is underway.

“Parents should individually inspect each child’s life vest to see if it is good condition and that it properly fits,” said Capt. Huebner, the state’s boating safety coordinator. “If it doesn’t, get one that does before going out.”

When choosing a life vest for a child, always check for:

  • U.S. Coast Guard approved label
  • Head support and, for younger children, a strap between the legs

The life vest must be a proper fit, with youth sizes corresponding to weight ranges:

  • Check the label and match it to the child’s current weight
  • Make sure it is snug but comfortable

“It is important for children to try on a life vest,” Capt. Huebner said. “For younger children, have them try it on and raise their arms, then gently tug upward on the life vest. Their chin and ears won’t slip through a properly-fitting vest.”

Never buy a life vest that is too large, hoping the child will grow into it. Never let a child wear a life vest that isn’t the correct weight range and lacks the proper buoyancy.

Adults should consider always wearing a life vest also, to be safe and to set a good example.

For more information on free boating education courses, safety and requirements, click here or call (919) 707-0031.