|Why don’t more people wear PFDs (personal flotation devices), aka lifejackets? It is a fact that most drowning victims are not wearing a PFD. We wear seatbelts, helmets when we ski or ride a bike (at least you should, my bike helmet has two dings in it from falls), and in general we are more safety conscious than ever before.
Here are a few possible reasons for not doing something that we know will make us safer:
* First, there is the expression of individual freedom that we feel when we are on the water. In some minds, it is a counter to all the things that we are told to do or must do, whether we like them or not. Not wearing a PFD is a manifestation of this thinking of “leave me alone to do what I want to do.”
* Second, there is the stigma of being seen wearing one when others are not. We would be very surprised if this was not one of the major reasons for not donning a PFD. After all, most people want to fit in with what others do or wear, and if others are not, they don’t want to stand out.
* Third, there is the comfort factor. For years, life jackets were horribly bulky, orange, horse-collar things that were uncomfortable and looked like they were only suitable for abandoning a sinking ship. No wonder people didn’t want to wear them. I can remember them being filled with cork or kapok. Definitely not ideal on a hot summer day. In fact, it was difficult to move around in those things, especially on a small sailboat.
Fortunately, we now have greatly improved PFDs that solve some of the above issues. New life vests are more stylish, come in attractive color combinations, are far less bulky and in most situations are not uncomfortable. They actually look much like a vest you would wear on a cool day, but with foam flotation as opposed to down or fiber fill. In fact, with the cold water we have in the early or late parts of the year they provide welcome warmth. For those who feel a life vest is too hot during the summer you can wear inflatable PFDs, which are becoming more popular every year. The next question is who should wear a PFD, and when? Assuming few people will wear one 100 percent of the time, this brings up another discussion. Stay tuned for part 2 in the next issue of RCR News.