Why Boats Don't Have Seat Belts

While providing evidence at a trial the presiding Judge leaned toward me and softly asked, “Why are boats not equipped with safety belts?” I replied, “Because life jackets are far more practical and a safer alternative, particularly when an open cockpit boat overturns or you've been ejected and end up in the water face down and in an unconscious state.” When worn and of appropriate size, a life jacket provides buoyancy and is designed to turn you on your back and keep you afloat face up. Seat belts are restrictive, confining and often difficult to release when in panic mode.

However, certain types of competition boats are optionally equipped with seat belts and the professional operators are highly skilled, well trained in safely surviving most misadventures, and usually wear an inflatable PFD (personal floatation device). Although PFDs provide buoyancy, they can't turn an unconscious person face up in the water.

We all know proper use of seat belts while operating motor vehicles is mandatory, right? Now, think about the times you've heard or seen on the news about vehicles plunging into the water while the occupant(s) was wearing a seat belt. Confinement, fear, panic, confusion, disorientation and unconsciousness are factors that influence and determine the likelihood of survival. Escape by breaking a window is extremely difficult to do, and power windows don't always work when submerged. External water pressure also makes it next to impossible to open doors, many being automatically locked while the vehicle is in gear.

So, the bottom line is simple. The chances of surviving a misadventure in a boat are much more likely when wearing a life jacket as opposed to being strapped inside a submerging car.

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