Wearing PFD’s now required in RI

The State of RI has changed boating regulations to require that PFD’s be worn at all times – even in canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. No age limits. It’s not good enough to have the PFD in the boat. You must have it on.


It took me a while to find the actual regulation, but here it is:


I know there are people who see this as government over-reach, but I’ll good with it. I wear my PFD all the time anyway.


Weird. According to 1.7.1.A.1.a and .b I don’t need to wear one in a 17 foot canoe or sea kayak but I do have to have a throwable? Such a clearly written law!

Interesting that those in small open motorboats under about 25’ are not required to wear a pfd even though most statistics show that category having the majority of fatalities. Drowning while engaged in fishing is significant too.

If you want SAR to rescue you or your family wants SAR to pull your bloated corpse from the water, I don’t think it unreasonable that SAR would want you to mitigate your risk by requiring a pfd. Consequently their risk is also mitigated.


That’s how I read it for over 16’ but they do exempt the throwable for paddle boats.

Just another law that will be ignored by the “smarter than everyone else” crowd.
CT has a mandatory pfd law. People still die not wearing them.
Mandatory registration is next if you don’t have it already

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Re: “People still die…”
There’s one law the “smarter than everyone else” crowd can’t ignore: Natural Selection.


I agree, it is poorly written. I believe the intention is for mandated PFD wear on all canoes etc.

You could make a case for exemption if your boat is over 16 feet.

I am on the fence on madates like this. I don’t believe it is the government’s place to protect people from themselves. On the other hand it will save lives.

Wear a PFD no matter what the law says.


I’m not sure what the culture is where most of you live, but where I live it is a monkey see monkey do mentality. I often see a heard mentality with younger paddlers here.

If a group of people go out on our river I assume they all have different levels of water survival skills and depending on the time of year risk factors can change a lot as well.

It always looks to me like there is a dominant person or several people that set the pace for the group and individuals with weak skills follow the lead. So in that way maybe making it a all in thing can help. Now it is not going with the flow of the group but an individual choice to risk breaking the law and being fined that may persuade people to wear them.

As a kid seatbelts first were not in cars and then came in as lap belts and almost no one wore them for the first 25 years they were in cars. Then both education and laws making it mandatory changed the culture. I rarely see anyone I ride with not using them these days.

I have asked quite a few people I have met paddling on the water when the conversation turned to my boat and different safety precautions I have that are visible. I simply ask if they are a strong swimmer and surprisingly many say they are weak swimmers at best. I then have said well cold water and moving current make it even harder and that’s why I keep my PFD on.

It is quite often they just don’t want to look out of place being the only one wearing one.

I am no fan of extra rules and it always seemed to me personal responsibility should remain personal with adults that should be able to evaluate their own risks.

Such a law here would I doubt do much good as no one would follow it as it would be so lightly enforced. Maybe if there was the law and all the put in locations had a sign stating the law had changed it might motivate a few on our rivers. In the lakes where there is some patrolling it might work better.

I agree with @Kevburg on the reading that canoes and kayaks over 16 feet may not need to wear PFDs.

The exemption section 1.7B has the following:


  1. Racing shells, Rowing sculls, racing kayaks, and any other vessel
    engaged in a sanctioned regatta, race or a practice held within 48 hours of
    the sanctioned event are exempt from § 1.7 of this Part.
  2. Canoes, kayaks, sailboards, kiteboards and paddleboards 16 feet (4.9
    meters) in length and greater are exempted from the carriage
    requirements of having one throwable PFD on board the vessel

I’m fine with things like seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws because I don’t want to subsidize stupidity via higher insurance premiums.


Where do they draw the line though is the real question?

We can restrict usage of alcohol and tobacco and that would reduce what the collective needs to pay for those that feel such things are something they want to use. I might be tempted to go along with such a plan as it would save me money I’m sure. It is a freedom I now get to decide for myself about.

But how about recreational boats altogether or certain rec boats like anything white water. There is more risk there than many non-boaters would like to subsidize. Downhill skiing causes a lot of injuries every year and the pool of people paying for insurance has to cover the added risk of those that want to ski. Should cars be limited to 50 MPH as anything above that causes the risk of driving to go up along with wasting energy that we all eventually have to pay more for as supplies dwindle.

It is a slippery slope in a free country and I know what it is like in countries where the powers to be decide what we can and can’t do. IMO we are already sliding down the slope with our freedoms.

We all agree it is smart to wear a PFD 100% of the time we are on the water. The question really is should we be allowed to do it because we want to or because we have to.

It might not be relevent, But I see it as a thing as like helmets for motorcycles, It’s more for the responders to do what they do…

I followed the same thread over a year ago. I decided it’s something that beyond my control or concern. One member asked whether those arguing for the legal madate wear a PFD when swimming. A few responded yes! That’s when I dropped out of the discussion. Rather than posture, I would suggest.

If you paddle in open water or in windy conditions, such as the Chesapeake Bay, an unexpected dump can result in tides, currents and wind carrying everything away in very short order. Your decision becomes: do I first reach for the hat, paddle, water bottle . . . PFD . . . boat . . . When seconds count, will you make the right decision? Watching a perfrctly good PFD floating away was the first mistake. It’s personal choice that impacts “your” life.

Although I usually paddle solo, when someone accompanies me, I want them to wear a PFD in case something happens to me. If they decline, I reevaluate the nature of our relationship and the future as paddling partners.

The best decision you can make is to develop habits that compensate for poor judgement or the unexpected. That’s just being prepared - its hard to prepare for the unexpected, and even harder to make up for the error. Be safe!

Not year round… Only year round for 12 and under and for others Oct 1 -May 31

Mandatory for kids is wise . . . Its our sacred duty to protect them from their own folly. We want them to develop good habits . . .

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Best way to accomplish that is for all adults to wear them. As with bike helmets. It always seems ridiculous to me when I see helmet-less parents on bikes with their helmeted kids. You just know the kids are getting the message that they only have to wear them because of the law, and the minute they age out of that they’ll never wear one again. Same thing with PFDs.


There was a comprehensive study (back in the 1980’s I think) that studied the cost of rehabilitation, medical care and even continuing disability and other subsidized support for motorcyclists who survived head injuries from crashing sans helmet. They found that the majority of those who sustained and survived such injuries were not insured and often had no personal resources and it fell disproportionately on the state and Federal governments to pay for their care, compared with the outcomes of individuals who had injuries but had been wearing safety approved helmets (there apparently was a strong correlation between people who had insurance and who used safe practices, well duh…).

The study concluded that the government (and taxpayers) did have a vested interest in requiring helmets, that being to reduce the cost and losses to society due to the types of injuries that a bare skull sustains on impact.

You can’t look out for people who won’t look our for themselves. Protect their kids. If something happens to the parent, hopefully the kids will get the point. We have a limited time here. We each have a choice to enjoy it as we see fit. I don’t have time to look out for someone who won’t worry about his or her own life. At least they have the free will to call the shots. In a 100 years, none of this maters.

I don’t think 99% of people on the earth have a decade left anyway.

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