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Hazel Lydia Snapp, 70, died Nov. 17, 2014, in Seattle.
8/19/2013
Type: Scrutable

It’s always been a matter of at least fleeting curiosity as to why the types of life jackets are so inscrutable. “Type IV”? “Type V with Type II performance”? What the heck?

The U.S. Coast Guard has finally recognized the possible utility of making the labels on life vests more understandable to us ordinary Joes.

So they are considering using the terms “throwable” and “wearable.”

A 2004 study by the Recreational Boating Safety Grant Program indicated that the current labels don’t do the job; “users do not adequately understand our (personal floatation device) type codes.”

Nine years late, the agency is looking for comments on changing to “user-friendly label format” on Coast Guard-approved PFDs.

Here’s the new deal: What’s now a PFD marked as “Type IV” or “Type V with Type IV performance” would henceforth be labeled “throwable.” It could, now understandably, be thrown to a person in the water.

What’s now a Type I, II, III or “Type V with Type I (or II or III) performance” would be labeled a “wearable PFD.”

All the old life vests labeled with the type designation, of course, still will be just fine, assuming they are in good shape. And, like the Coast Guard, we realize that the most important thing about a life vest is to have it accessible and, if it’s wearable, to wear it when out on the water. Still, for those of us trying to outfit our boats and do the safest thing, the new personal flotation devices will be much more clearly labeled.

Great idea.

If you think so too, why not say so?

The agency is looking for public reaction on the idea. Go to the federal website, www.regulations.gov. Fill in the docket number in the search — it’s USCG-2013-0263 — and you will see the link to making comments.

We suggest: “Do it!”