Personal watercrafts (PWC) are a common pass time for residents in the
greater Tampa Bay area and other popular tourist destinations throughout
Florida. PWCs are defined as jet-propulsion boats designed to carry between
1 and 4 riders. The term PWC includes all types and brands of Jet-Skis,
Wave Runners, and Sea Doos.
Warm weather states like Florida allow residents and tourists to enjoy
the use of personal watercraft virtually year round. As Florida’s
summer months approach, PWC use skyrockets. Resident who own jet-skis
as well as visitors who rent wave runners near local beaches contribute
to a noticeable increase in PWC activity in coastal waters. The state
of Florida offers safety training and other programs to keep water sports
and boating safe for everyone, including PWC riders, but personal watercraft
accidents still occur.
5 Personal Watercraft Statistics
- Inexperience, carelessness, and excessive speed are responsible for 96%
of all wave-runner accidents
- PWC renters are 25% more likely to experience an accident compared to PWC owners
- In 2012, 651 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries resulted from recreational
boating accidents in the US
- 85% of drowning fatality victims were reported as not wearing a life jacket
or personal flotation device
- Seven out of ten drowning victims were associated with vessels under 21
feet long (open motorboats, PWC – Jet-Skis, kayaks – canoes)
5 Safety Tips for Avoiding Personal Watercraft Accidents
1. Learn How to Swim: Basic swimming ability can help a person feel more prepared when engaging
in any water-related sports or activities. Confidence will help to keep
a person from panicking if he/she should fall in the water. Panicked swimmers
can also pose a danger to anyone attempting to pull them to safety.
2. Wear a Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Strong swimming ability does not preclude any PWC rider from wearing a
life vest, which is designed to keep a person’s head above water
if he/she is rendered unconscious. PWCs are designed to allow a rider
to fall off safely and re-board, unlike most boats. Therefore, PWC riders
also face a greater danger of being ejected and knocked unconscious before
they enter the water.
3. Don’t Go Alone: Avoid riding a PWC alone. Take a friend along as a passenger or ride
with someone piloting their own Jet-Ski. Stay close together, but maintain
a safe, immediate-operating distance. If you must go out onto the water
alone, set a “sail” plan just as an airplane pilot sets a
flight plan. Friends or family should be made aware each time you go out
on the water, where you’re riding, and how long you expect to be
gone. Stick to your plan and agree to call someone as a safety “check-in”
after you return safely. If you can’t call because of an accident,
your safety contact will know to contact the authorities to send help.
4. Avoid Consuming Alcohol: All PWC operators should abstain from alcoholic beverages while on the
water. Combined with direct sunlight exposure and a greater potential
for dehydration, the effects of alcohol on the water have been proven
to have a greater impact than on land.
US Coast Guard statistics cite alcohol use on the water as the highest contributing external factor
to fatal PWC accidents, particularly when coupled with rider inexperience.
5. Ride Responsibly: A PWC operator is responsible for his or her own safety, the safety of
any passenger, the watercraft, and any damage the watercraft’s wake
may cause. Obey all signage and adhere to no-wake zone restrictions. Before
performing any rapid maneuvers or crossing over another boat’s wake,
check for other traffic right, left, and behind you to prevent a collision.
Do not trail other boaters to jump their wakes repeatedly and only cross
boat wakes at a safe distance.