The number of personal water craft (PWC) off our shores and in our waterways has increased considerably in the last decade, creating serious logistical and safety problems.
More commonly known as jet skis, many PWCs are able to reach top speeds of well over 65 mph, often making jet ski injuries quite serious. Their shallow draft design also allows them to be operated close to shore and in shallow water, further compounding their potential danger.
In addition to being fast, jet skis are small and maneuverable, making them deceptively easy to use. To operate a jet ski, you only need to get on board, start it, and turn the throttle. But some studies estimate that approximately 60 percent of jet ski accidents involve operators with less than 100 hours of experience.
Despite its many dangers, even inexperienced drivers are frequently encouraged to operate jet skis, often without any real words of caution or training.
In order to prevent an enjoyable recreational activity from becoming a tragedy, there are some common sense tips that all jet ski operators should follow:
- Do not operate a PWC under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Besides impairing reaction time and judgment, some states share their jurisdiction concurrently with Federal laws, and many have provisions allowing intoxicated boaters to be taken into custody.
- Read the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with the controls and features of the vessel.
- Take at least one lesson on the vessel’s usage.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for swimmers and other jet skis and watercraft. Collisions are the most common type of jet ski accident.
- Try to minimize distractions. If towing a skier, a passenger should observe the skier.
- Do not operate a jet ski at night or when dark out.
- Keep clear of swimming areas and away from sailboats, canoes, anglers and wildlife.
- Wear an approved personal flotation device. Preferably wear sneakers or deck shoes, gloves, a wet suit and eye protection against water spray and debris. Attach a whistle to your life jacket to summon help if needed.
- Check fuel lines for leaks or signs of wear or cracking.
- If your jet ski capsizes, follow the following procedure:
- Swim toward the jet ski to reduce the chances of other boats hitting you.
- If there is a re-boarding handle, grab it first with one hand and place the other hand on the back of the vessel for leverage. Otherwise place both hands on the back of the craft.
- Give a thrust, or “flipper kick”, to project yourself onto the jet ski while pulling yourself up with your hands. It is easier to do this if it is done quickly.
- If the jet ski begins to tilt, place some of your weight on the opposite side to balance the vessel. Try to get in a “catcher” position.
- Sit on the jet ski while holding the handlebars for additional leverage. DO NOT REATTACH YOUR SAFETY LANYARD until you are ready to go!
If you or a loved one has been injured in a jet ski accident, please call or email us today and we will put you in touch with an experienced boating accident attorney in your area.