JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A proposed Missouri law would require all children under age 12 to wear a life jacket while aboard a boat and while swimming.

The bill, SB 119, filed by Senator Lauren Arthur (D - 17 - Clay County), is similar to several bills filed but not passed in recent years. In addition to raising the age requirement for children aboard a boat, it also would require children under age 12 to wear a life jacket while swimming in water deeper than three feet in any navigable waterway of the state, unless supervised by a lifeguard.

Under current Missouri law, children under the age of seven are required to wear a personal flotation device while on board any watercraft, and there are no requirements for wearing a life jacket while swimming. SB 119, known as “Hannah’s Law” is named after an eight-year-old named Hannah Gerlt, who drowned in Smithville Lake in 2010. Hannah would have been a second grade student at Ravenwood Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District. Since then, Hannah’s family has pressed lawmakers to raise the age requirement for life jackets.

The earliest version of SB 119 was filed several years ago, and tried to raise the requirement to eight years old. Arthur filed HB 2341 in 2018, which would raise the age to 12. Arthur’s office reported Rep. Ken Wilson, whose district includes Smithville, plans to file a similar version of the bill in the House.


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