Duck boat accident raises questions about life jackets

Hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones in last week’s duck boat accident in Missouri. While accident investigators search for answers about what happened, other experts debate whether life jackets would have saved lives. As tourists continue to plan summer outings on the state’s waterways, it is worth taking a look at what industry leaders are saying about life jackets and boating. 

The USA Today reported that a duck boat’s canopy poses a particular problem for its passengers when they are wearing life jackets. It is possible for “the life jackets to cause passengers to rise to the surface and be caught in the canopy.” Because of previous similar incidents resulting in loss of life, drivers do not always require duck boat riders to wear life jackets, though they are available on the vessels. The article emphasizes the reality that everyone does not agree on this approach.

There is one thing that industry leaders can agree on, however. They recognize the U.S. Coast Guard statistics showing in 2016, 83 percent of victims who drowned following a boating accident were not wearing life jackets. Although it is impossible to say whether life jackets might have saved some of the duck boat passengers, the U.S. Coast Guard statistics make a strong argument that they do, in fact, save lives. 

The National Safe Boating Council agrees so much so that its Safe Boating Campaign website directly states: 

“Boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but wear it at all times while boating… Be responsible and always wear your life jacket while boating.” 


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