With RBOC support and testimony, legislation expanding the requirement for children under 13 to wear a personal flotation device has passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. The preliminary vote is a bipartisan, 7 to 0 vote in favor of passage.
AB 638 is authored by Assembly Member Jim Frazier [D-Oakley]. The measure would amend Harbors and Navigation Code Section 658.3 to expand the requirement for children under 13 to wear a PFD to boats over 26 feet, rather than just boats 26 feet and under.
It is important to note that the requirement to wear a PFD would continue to apply while the vessel is underway, unless the child is either restrained by a harness tethered to the vessel, or is in an enclosed cabin.
RBOC also supports the logical and reasonable provision of AB 638 that would amend the definition of “enclosed cabin” to mean a space on board a vessel that is surrounded by bulkheads or canvas, and covered by a roof.
It is also important that the following two practical exceptions set forth of Section 658.3 would continue:
(1) This subdivision does not apply to a person aboard a personal watercraft or a person being towed behind a vessel on water skis, if that person is a performer engaged in a professional exhibition, or preparing to participate or participating with authorization pursuant to a United States Coast Guard permit or other permit granted pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 268 in an official regatta, marine parade, tournament, or exhibition.
(2) In lieu of wearing a United States Coast Guard-approved wearable personal flotation device as described in this subdivision, a person engaged in slalom skiing on a marked course or a person engaged in barefoot, jump, or trick waterskiing may elect to wear a wetsuit designed for the activity and labeled by the manufacturer as a water ski wetsuit. A United States Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device as described in this subdivision shall be carried in the tow vessel for each skier electing to wear a water ski wetsuit pursuant to this paragraph.
As amended in today's hearing, the bill would also not apply to a person operating a "passenger vessel" as defined in section 2101(22) of Title 46 of the US Code, or a "small passenger vessel" as defined in section 2101(35) of Title 46 of the US Code.