And that's becoming an issue, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries announced today.
"Recently, there have been more and more non-approved personal flotation devices showing up in the marketplace, and now they are being sold at larger retailers where most customers just assume it is an approved version," said LDWF's Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, the state's Boating Law Administrator. "We want people to be aware during the purchase to look for the U.S. Coast Guard approval number on the label."
A simple inspection of the label of a PFD will reveal whether or not that model has gone through the approval process. If explicit language such as that shown in the photo is not present, the PFD has not been approved by the USCG and does not meet the legal requirements.
According to the USCG, all approved PFDs are tested by a sanctioned USCG-recognized laboratory to validate a PFD's performance.
As one of its many duties, the LDWF Enforcement Division is charged with making the state's waterways safer for the public to enjoy and use. The LDWF Enforcement Division strictly enforces PFD requirements on the water since it has been determined to be one of the largest factors in preventing boating incident fatalities.
In 2012, there were 23 boating incident fatalities in Louisiana of which 15 officially listed drowning as the cause of death.
In Louisiana, a vessel must have a USCG approved PFD for each occupant. Also, anybody under 16 years of age must wear a USCG approved PFD if on board a vessel less than 26 feet in length and while underway.
"The unapproved personal flotation devices for sale are attractive purchases because they usually cost less than the USCG approved ones," Mayne said. "However, those unapproved personal flotation devices would not be considered legal, and could potentially put somebody's life at risk."