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Life Jacket Wear Rate Statistics

Updated: May 7, 2020

Have you every wondered what percentage of people actually wear life jackets in various situations? Based off USCG Boating’s excellent annual Life Jacket Wear Rate Observation Study, we’ve put their data in an easy to read chart format.

The study was conducted by JSI Research and Training Institute and 2017 was the 19th year data collection efforts were conducted by them.

JSI Research team members observed various boating venues across the United States during a 2-month period starting on July 7th. During this time, 13,675 boats carrying 37,577 boaters were observed. Some of the most interesting data collected is below.

For each chart:

  • The blue bars represents the percentage of individuals in 2017 who wore a life jacket in a particular activity or age demographic.
  • The orange bars represents that percentage from 2007 (10 years ago) to compare how usage has changed over time.

Boater* Wear Rates (Overall)

* Personal watercraft excluded

Boater* Wear Rates (By Age)

* Personal watercraft excluded

Powerboat* Wear Rates

* Includes: Skiffs, utility boats, runabouts, speedboats, cabin cruisers, houseboats, pontoons, and powered inflatable rafts.

Sailboat* Wear Rates

* Includes: Cabin sailboats, day sailors, and sailboards.

Paddlecraft Wear Rates (Adults)

* Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) data from 2007 is not available since the activity was so new back then.

Paddlecraft Wear Rates (Youth)

* Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) data from 2007 is not available since the activity was so new back then.


The findings show that life jacket wear rates have improved significantly from a decade ago in many areas. That said, there is a whole lot of room for improvement.

Even though life jackets are required by state laws for youth taking part in various water activities, the numbers show there are still quite a few ignoring those laws.

According to the 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics report (published by the USCG), 486 drowning deaths occurred in 2016 where life jacket usage or non-usage was known. In a staggering 83% (404) of those drownings, the individual was reported as not wearing a life jacket.

This just goes to show how important life jackets are, even for adults. It’s easy to have an excuse to not wear one, but it can really be a life or death decision.



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