Life jackets required for infants on boats

I have a friend and co-worker who has a young son less than a year old and obviously this friend is horribly sleep-deprived to a point where his judgment has become seriously impaired. He's a fisherman and he plans to take his young son on a fishing trip on the Rogue River in his driftboat.

Now, the guy is a pretty good oarsman so I don't think he's putting the kid in danger, but a driftboat deck can be a pretty tough place to change a diaper. My question is, what's the rule about infants and life jackets?

— M.F., email submission

Well, M.F., your friend is clearly taking the "take a kid fishing" mantra to a degree far past what we at Since You Asked Central consider impaired.

It's hard enough taking an 8-year-old kid fishing. But an 8-month-old?

Oregon boating law requires that all children age 12 and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on an open deck or cockpit on boats that are under way or when being towed.

This includes sailboats, canoes, kayaks, rafts and driftboats. There are some exceptions to the No Kid Left Unjacketed rules. Such as, if the child is below deck in an enclosed boat cabin, on a sailboat and tethered to it or on a U.S. Coast Guard-inspected passenger-carrying vessel operating in waters deemed navigable.

"There's nothing about infants," says Ashley Massey, the public affairs specialist for the Oregon State Marine Board in Salem.

That said, Massey says infants less than 20 pounds can be fitted into special life jackets. In fact, one of her daughters was only 2 months old when she wore her first life jacket during a fishing trip on board the Massey family vessel. The other was about 6 months old on her first voyage.

"I had a great experience with them," Massey says. "The key is to have the child relaxed."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.


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