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 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.