Akin to wearing a seatbelt only when you're driving out on the interstate IMHO. I paddle primarily streams you'd have no trouble throwing a ball across. Every year we come across and assist a few folks in trouble, and they are the ones who rarely have a PFD on.
On the water, crap can happen. And one thing you always seem to hear echoed about most drowning victims is "He/she was a GOOD swimmer?" When you mix adrenalin and emergent situations, most folks have trouble swimming. Add a boat full of water, belly full of beer, cold water, a nasty strainer, tough water conditions, et al and you're playing Russian Roulette.
If you'd ever had a kid bobbing underwater screaming "Don't let me drown, DON'T LET ME DROWN" as you struggled to find an eddy next to a nasty strainer to attempt his rescue, I bet you'd encourage EVERYONE on the water to wear a PFD as I do?
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