Raelyn A. Stockwell

Project title: Personal Flotation Devices: An Observational Study Characterizing Usage in King County, Washington

Degree: MS (Thesis) | Program: Environmental Health Technology (Tech) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 1993 | Faculty advisor: Charles D. (Chuck) Treser


The concern over the relationship between an apparent lack of use of personal flotation devices (lifejackets) and the liklihood of drowning prompted a study to characterize factors that affect usage. This study attempts to charaterize the present level of lifejacket usage among boaters in boats sixteen feet or less, in King County, Washington, using a representative sample of King County boaters (N=1099). Observers recorded a boater's sex, age, boat type and whether the person was actually wearing a lifejacket as well as information about the observation site and the weather.

Overall, only 19.8% of the boaters were wearing lifejackets. No difference was found between usage in males and females. However, a difference was shown to exist between usage in children and adults. Children (under 14) overall wore lifejackets (68.2%) more often than people over 15 years (14.2%). Additionally, children that were wearing lifejackets were more likely to be on a boat with an adult that was wearing a lifejacket than a child that was not wearing a lifejacket (x2=7.03, p<.01). Additionally, the boat type was shown to affect usage (p<.05). For example, people in kayaks wore lifejackets more often than people in motor boats (78.3% compared to 10.5%). These results help to target audiences for further educational campaigns by the Seattle-King County Drowning Prevention Coalition and for potential legislation by Washington State.