RICHMOND — A House committee this morning sunk a bill that would have required children younger than 12 to wear a life jacket while on a boat in Virginia waters.
The Coast Guard already requires children to wear personal flotation devices, but only federal authorities can enforce the law. So if Virginia Marine Police or a local marine police unit spots an infraction, they can’t write a ticket, said Tom Guess, boating safety program manager for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, proposed giving them that authority by making the rule part of state law, punishable by a $100 civil fine or a boating safety course. Ward said she recently purchased a boat and was surprised to see many children on the water without life vests.
“I saw more dogs with personal flotation devices,” Ward said. “And it really bothered me to see it.”
Boaters must have a life vests for every person on board, but they don’t have to be worn. Only Virginia and Wisconsin don’t require children to wear them, Guess said.
The House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources voted down the bill (HB1597). This is the 13th year the proposal has failed, likely over personal rights concerns, Guess said.
– Kathy Adams, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot