In Missouri, only children under the age of 7 are required to wear a life jacket -- or personal floatation device (PFD). However, they is still required equipment to be carried on a vessel, by the U.S Coast Guard. A boat must have a PFD for each person aboard, and that PFD must be readily accessible at all times. A throw able PFD, such as a seat cushion type, is also required to be onboard. All persons on a personal water craft are required to wear a PFD.

Even strong swimmers and “safe boaters” should use a PFD -- a fall or collision could render the boater unconscious.

Select a PFD based on your planned activities and the water conditions you expect to encounter -- canoeing on the Platte River is different than waterskiing in Table Rock Lake. No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure to get the one that's comfortable for you, so you'll wear it. Look for a U.S. Coast Guard approval, which ensures the device has been rigorously tested.

At the very least, consider wearing an inflatable PFD. They're more comfortable to wear in hot weather and they provide high floatation when inflated. They're most appropriate for adults who can swim because they must be inflated (by pulling a rip cord) to provide floatation. They also shouldn't be used on personal watercraft or while waterskiing. Inspect vest and its CO2 canister before each outing.

Non swimmers should stick with foam-type PFDs, and they should wear them at all times.

Everyone should don a PFD is the weather turns sour and the wind picks up.

Remember, spending a little time now can save your life later.

For more information, contact the Missouri State Water Patrol: (573) 751-3333.