Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life Jackets for Everyone?

I'm of two minds regarding a proposal which would require paddlers of all ages to wear life jackets (PFDs) while on the water.  Currently, PFDs are only required for paddlers aged 10 and under.  (That, by the way, was one of the questions on my guide's test.)

Citing a spate of paddling deaths this year (some of which involved a victim who was not wearing a life jacket), State Representative Richard Malaby of Hancock is looking to change that.  He submitted a bill as "emergency legislation" which, if it passes, could take effect prior to next summer.  Rep. Malaby himself, however, acknowledges that the problem may have to do more with paddler education than PFD regulation.  He says that the regulation would help to educate out-of-state vacationers with the "dangers" of paddling in Maine waters, which basically boil down to the fact that a lot of Maine water is cold.  Really cold.  Even in the summer.  (Don't believe me?  Jump into Deboullie in July- it'll get your heart pumping!)

On one hand, we have helmet and seat belt laws to protect us from ourselves, so I don't see how a PFD law would be any different.  On the other hand, I usually find it awkward to paddle in a life jacket, especially since 90% of my paddling is done on calm water in which I swim regularly.  If I'm paddling a river, or if it's choppy or whatnot, a life jacket is a given.  Wearing one to paddle over to the Island to clean it every few days would be a little obnoxious.

That's just my opinion, though- what do you think?

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