PFD Standards Are Changing
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PFD Standards Are Changing

The U.S. Coast Guard is changing the standards for Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). Make sure that you brush up on the new standards before purchasing your next PFD.

Last fall, the U.S. Coast Guard dropped its old coding scheme for personal flotation devices (PFDs). As of Oct. 22, 2014, manufacturers are no longer required to include Type I, II, III, IV or V on their PFD labels.

The coding was used to differentiate between types of life jackets. The system tended to confuse boaters, limited choice and increased the cost of the PFDs, says Chris Edmonston, president of the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and chairman of the National Safe Boating Council.

“The boating safety community believes this move by the Coast Guard will help lead the way toward more comfortable and innovative life jacket designs, help boaters stay on the right side of the law, lower costs and save lives,” says Edmonston.

The type coding was unique to the U.S., and removing it is simply the first step in a multiyear process that includes designing new labels and developing new standards, so those probably won’t be seen on the market until at least 2017. In the meantime, you legally can continue to purchase and use life jackets with the old Type I–V coding on the labels.

“We must continue to have a properly fitted life jacket for all aboard, and as always, you’ll need to follow the label’s instructions regardless of when it was made,” cautions Edmonston. “Simply put, if you follow the label, you’re following the law.”

To see a full list of the current life jacket types, as well as any updates on new life jackets, visit

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