Personal Water Craft (PWC)

Thousands take to the water each day on personal water craft (PWC), commonly known as Jet Skis. From a operator's point of view, they're small, maneuverable, fast, and seemingly simple to use. You just climb aboard, start it and twist the throttle. The next thing you know you're flying across the water throwing spray every time you shift your body. What a great toy, but they aren't toys and it can be a big mistake to assume they are.

PWC are different from conventional boats in terms of design, operation and use. Unlike other types of boats, their shallow draft design allows them to be operated at high speeds in shallow waters and close to shore. They are highly maneuverable and capable of speeds exceeding 65 mph. Common practices include: weaving between vessels, jumping wakes, spinning doughnuts, and radical changes of course, which is why several areas want to ban them (an extreme response).

Personal water craft are common, and so are accidents involving them. Realistically they are not any more dangerous than any other water craft, however it is the way people operate them and an apparent lack of common courtesy that causes many of their problems (just sit and watch people on Jet Skis and study their actions, you will find it quite interesting). A personal water craft is a motorboat under the law. It must be registered, and must abide by all the rules that other boats must follow. You are required to carry safety equipment which includes life preservers and fire extinguishers. A Jet Ski is not a child's toy.

Research from the University of Florida shows that jet ski accidents cause far greater injury than other boating mishaps. The study found that patients sustain more closed-head injuries, trauma to the chest and abdominal injury riding jet skis. The study shows that the majority of jet ski accidents are when riders strike an object with their jet skis. Riders are usually ejected from the vehicle during a collision and victims are more susceptible to hitting the obstacle or other boat involved in the collision. The study suggested jet skis are similar to motorcycles in injuries. Additionally boating accidents involving Jet Skis are almost twice as likely to involve injuries than accidents involving other kinds of water craft.

Jet skis are highly maneuverable, faster than most speed boats and can provide fun and good times when used safely. These tight high-speed craft have been described by some as motorcycle for the water. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are much less expensive than boats. Although jet skiing can be fun, there are some inexperienced drivers out there who simply don't know that they can get into trouble by improper behavior. Operator inexperience was responsible for 95 percent of all jet ski accidents. Two common factors in those mishaps were speed and improper operating technique, specifically in throttle operation.

Jet Ski (Personal Water Craft) Safety Tips:

First check your State Regulations, all now have specific sections on jet skies

Read the owner's manual so you understand the controls and features of your personal water craft, and take at least one lesson on it's usage.

Wear the proper safety equipment. An approved PFD life jacket Type I  (Image) or Type II  (Image) is a must. It is also advised to wear eye protection to keep water spray from obscuring your vision.

Tennis or deck shoes offer better control on your machine, also gloves and a wet suit offer protection from the elements.

Attach a whistle to your life jacket in case you need to summon help.

Never operate your personal water craft without the safety lanyard attached to you. The lanyard cuts the engine if you fall, and could save a long swim home.

All persons using or towed by a PWC must wear a Personal Flotation Device.

Stay out of swimming areas and away from wildlife.

Never operate at night, or with two water skiers. Operate the craft only between sunrise and sunset.

Some safety advocates advise a helmet for anyone under 18.

Keep a lookout for other boats and water craft, especially sail boats. Stay at least 100 feet away. Collisions are the most common type of personal water craft accidents.

Respect the rights of others. This includes not following boats to closely, or jumping a boat's wake.

Staying away from anglers and canoeists.

Be conscious of the noise your craft makes.

Do not operate your water craft after you've been drinking.

Know the water you're operating in so you can avoid weeds, rocks, and sandbars.

Anyone under the age of 16 needs a boating safety certificate obtained by successful completion of a boating safety course, or be accompanied by someone over age 18.


(1) Locate the jet ski and swim over to it. The farther you are away, the greater the chances of other boats hitting you.

(2) After you have reached the jet ski, the pilot must first grab the re-boarding handle at the end of the machine with one hand. The pilot's other hand should be placed on the back of the craft for leverage. If there is no handle, place both hands on the back of the jet ski.

(3) Next, you must give a flipper kick, or a thrust, to boost yourself on to the jet ski. As you push, you must use you hands to pull yourself up (they should be on the handle). The faster you do this, the easier it is.

(4) Since you are partially on the craft, you must now get to your feet and stay in a catcher position. This prevents the jet ski from flipping again. If the jet ski begins to tilt to one side, you must place weight on the opposite side to balance the craft.

(5) By now you should be in a position to sit down on your jet ski. You need to hold the handlebars for extra leverage. VERY IMPORTANT—DO NOT REATTACH YOUR SAFETY LANYARD.

(6) After you are sitting on the jet ski again with your hands on the handlebars ready to go, you can attach the safety lanyard.

Real Life Jet Ski Accidents

A nine-year-old girl died after having a collision involving two Jet Skies. Police say one personal water craft was being driven by the nine-year-old girl and she was carrying an 11-year-old passenger. The second machine was being operated by a 14-year-old girl who was carrying another 14 year old girl. The 14 year old driver suffered serious head injuries in the crash, narrowly escaped drowning after she was knocked unconscious. Accident occurred on a Sunday afternoon about 13:00 The two craft collided after "driving side by side in the same direction."

A 25-year-old man had his leg and hip crushed when his Jet Ski was struck by a second one. The accident occurred at about 17:00 on a Sunday. Marine Police said it appears the two operators of the water craft were "clowning around" by spinning the machines around and causing large sprays of water. One operator lost sight of the second one and "ran into the other operator's leg," he said.

A 19 year old man piled a rented Jet Ski into a dock. A woman standing on the dock was hit and treated in hospital for injuries to her hip and back. The 19-year-old driver sustained a lacerations and a broken nose.

A 18 year old man died in jet ski accident linked to inexperience - Driver crashed on his first outing, 8 year old girl riding on back in serious condition with cervical fractures.

A 36 year old father and thirteen year old daughter on a Jet Ski ride, made a turn too wide, and hit a concrete dock. On impact, the girl was thrown over the dock and into the water on the other side. His trajectory was lower, and skidded across the dock's surface. The 36 man was fortunate to suffer only severe scrapes and bruises. His teenage daughter emerged virtually unscathed. This was the first time the man ever drove a Jet Ski

A windsurfer was killed by an illegally speeding jet ski in the harbor. Several serious collisions involving windsurfers have happened in this area recently, with most collisions being hit-and-run incidents with jet skis that are far exceeding the no wake zone speed limit. The jet ski that killed the wind surfer was traveling in excess of 50 mph.

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