A proposed bill would require kids wear life jackets while boating on Wisconsin waters. Wisconsin and Virginia are the only two states that do not require children to wear a life jacket while boating. Current state law in Wisconsin requires only that properly fitting life jackets be readily accessible for each person onboard a boat.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a life jacket in a boat, because when a kid falls over it’s too late to put it on him,” said the bill’s author, state Representative Al Ott (R-Forest Junction), who said the bill would simply mimic requirements on federally regulated waterways like the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.

Ott said requiring PFDs on kids in boats is no different from child safety seats or childhood immunizations — while conceding that some of his colleagues likely won’t see it that way. “There’s some resistance from what I understand, from some members who think it’s not appropriate to tell parents what to do, that they have that responsibility and we shouldn’t have to mandate it from the state,” Ott said. “I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s an issue in this case.”

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