Comfortable and Inexpensive Life Jacket to Increase Wear

Topic Number: 
1

Background: In 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard received reports for 4,789 boating incidents; 3,331 boaters were reported injured, and 709 died. Among those who drowned, 9 out of 10 were not wearing life jackets (personal floatation device or PDF). Most boating fatalities that occurred during 2008 (72%) were caused by drowning with 90% of victims not wearing life jackets (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wide-ranging OnLine Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) [online]. (2010) Available from URL: HYPERLINK "http://wonder.cdc.gov/mortsql.html" \t "_blank"http://wonder.cdc.gov/mortsql.html).

For those who take to the water for occupational purposes, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) estimates during 1982-1987 the annual occupational fatality rate for U.S. commercial fishermen was 47 deaths per 100,000 workers. The major cause of these deaths was drowning. According to information gathered by CDC’s Alaska Activity, the occupational fatality rate for commercial fishermen in Alaska during 1991-1993 was 195 deaths per 100,000 workers -- nearly 30 times the average annual rate for all U.S. workers. Of these 195 deaths, 91% were caused by drowning. Data clearly show that PFDs greatly increase the chances of survival for fishermen: 63% of fishermen wearing PFDs when they jumped or fell into the water survived, whereas only 12% of those without PFDs survived. These conclusions and recommendations may apply to all commercial fishing operations in the United States.

Public Health Impact: Studies have shown that the majority of drowning incidents were precipitated by unexpected entry into the water, which means the victim had no time to grab a life jacket before entering the water. Many of the drowning incidents could have been prevented by wearing a PDF. Common reasons given for not wearing a life jacket include being 1) uncomfortable and 2) expensive. A newly designed life jacket that addressed these issued has the potential to increase use and decrease morbidity and mortality from drowning. It is believed that a wide array of retail and commercial outlets (specialty outdoor retail stores, warehouse stores, and convenience stores) will have an interest in this product.

Examples of specific research areas of interest include, but are not limited to: To develop a comfortable, lightweight, compact, inexpensive, and easy to use life jacket that could be worn for recreational and/or occupational activities (boating, kayaking, fishing, etc.) to reduce the risk of drowning.