November 12, 2014

Pennsylvania safety officials hope that a new law will help curb boating and water-related accident fatalities. The new law, which went into effect Nov. 1, now requires all boaters and waterfowl hunters throughout the Commonwealth to wear life jackets while on the water between Nov. 1 through April 30. This regulation also extends to water vessels less than 16 feet in length such as canoes and kayaks.

According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, research drawn from boating accident reports show that nearly 80 percent of all boating accident fatalities happened to individuals not wearing life jackets.

The PFBC says that a large number of those fatal accidents are caused by the human body’s reaction to becoming immersed in cold water. An agency spokesperson says that the sudden unexpected plunge into cold water is the real culprit. According to the spokesperson, the involuntary gasp caused by a dunk in water below 70°F can bring about hyperventilation and quickly diminish a swimmer’s ability to escape the water.

National statistics also seem to support that theory. The PFBC says that boating accidents which happened during the colder parts of the year typically result in more deaths. It is estimated that boating accidents which occur in water that is 39°F are roughly 4 times more likely to result in death when compared to warmer water accidents.

Pennsylvania boaters, waterfowl hunters and other water sports enthusiasts have a right to be safe from the negligent actions of others. Unfortunately, no amount of preventative safety measures can ensure that careful boaters will always avoid injury or wrongful death.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident who has lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another you may be entitled to sue those responsible for your loss. In some cases it may be possible to recover monetary compensation for your loss of companionship and other pain and suffering associated with your case.

Source:, “Reminder to PA boaters; life jackets required by law November 1 to April 30” Duane Sedlock, Oct. 31, 2014