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RALEIGH, N.C. (May 2) - Most parents would never consider letting their children ride in a car without being properly buckled into a child safety seat.

That same wise thinking should be applied to boats: put your children into a proper personal flotation device before getting underway. And just like child safety seats, it is the law.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds boaters that all children under 13 years old must wear a personal flotation device, or PFD, whenever they are on a recreational vessel. The exceptions are if the vessel is anchored or tied to shore, the children are in an enclosed cabin or below deck, or aboard a commercial vessel.

Often known as a lifejacket, life preserver or life vest, the PFD must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, of an appropriate size and in good condition.

"This time of year, a lot of boating equipment has been stored away since last season," said Capt. Chris Huebner, who coordinates boating safety programs for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. "We recommend that parents check their children's PFDs to see if they still fit. If not, get one that does. If it is torn or has suffered mildew, rot or shows rust on any metal parts, throw it away and replace it."

When buying a PFD for a child, Huebner said to always check for:
A "U.S. Coast Guard approved" label.
A proper fit, checking the weight and size requirements on the label and trying it on the child before going out on the water. "Make sure it is snug, but comfortable," he said. "Plan to replace it when your child outgrows it."
That it has head support and a strap between the legs for younger children.

For more information on children and boating safety, visit www.ncwildlife.org or call (919) 707-0031.
 
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