Background With a few notable exceptions, national legislation requiring wearing of a personal flotation device or lifejacket by boaters is uncommon. As a result some municipalities and provinces or states have introduced their own regulations.
Methods Information was obtained by searching of Safety Lit and other sources, including by contacting instigators of national legislation
Results Regulations for recreational and occupational boating were obtained for all 13 Canadian provinces and territories as well as one city. Canadian laws were diverse and are relatively weak, with the notable exception of the city of Calgary. Information was also obtained for Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States. In the United States, state laws supersede the national law, which appears mainly oriented towards children. The Irish legislation is more comprehensive than most. The most comprehensive state law in Australia is in Victoria State and has had remarkable success in improving outcomes as measured by boating drowning fatalities. In New Zealand, 18 regions and cities have regulations, some of which were comprehensive in requiring mandatory wearing. Many regulation featured opt out clauses at the discretion of the operator.
Conclusions Current legislation on wearing of flotation devices is variable. If the weak regulations in many jurisdictions were to be replaced by those such as in Victoria, Ireland and certain regions and cities in New Zealand, it is probable that many boating fatalities could be averted. Since children are uncommon victims of boating immersion in many high income countries, legislation targeting children will not be expected to be effective in such countries, with certain exceptions such as indigenous peoples. Rather the focus should be adult males
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