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Jet Ski Safety Guidelines

July 12th, 2012

On July 6, 2012, Usher’s 11-year-old stepson, Kile Glover, suffered a serious head injury after a jet-ski accident. The child was floating on an inner tube with a teenaged friend when they were struck by a jet ski piloted by 38-year-old Jeffrey Hubbard. While an investigation is continuing, drugs and alcohol were not involved. According to numerous news reports, young Kile was pronounced brain dead on July 8.

That tragedy follows close on the heels of another: On July 1, astronaut Alan Poindexter died after a collision of water scooters.

While injuries from personal watercraft are rare–slightly more than 800 per year in the United States–most of the injuries could have been prevented. Experts are stepping up their efforts to warn people that water vehicles can be dangerous. According to an article in USA Today:

Organizations such as the Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA) are pushing for increased education and safety requirements for those riding the more than 1.29 million jet-propelled watercrafts registered across the nation.

“It’s simply because we feel that it is important that these vessels be operated safely,” association Executive Director David Dickerson said. “They are unique. They require a certain level of judgment and expertise.”

Among the increased safety requirements urged by the PWIA are increasing minimum operator age to at least 16, mandatory safety education for everyone, and mandatory wearing of life jackets. Currently in North Carolina, anyone age 14 or older can operate a personal watercraft, and education courses are required only for people under age 17.

Top Safety Guidelines

The PWIA has created a helpful brochure the outlines safety rules for riding jet skis, water scooters, and other personal watercraft. As they say in the opening paragraph:

A personal watercraft (PWC) is a boat, and you’re the captain. You are legally in com- mand of a powerboat, and you’re bound by the boating rules of the road as well as the laws and traditions of responsible boating. 

Here are the top rules and guidelines:

  • Never ride after consuming drugs or alcohol.
  • Wear a personal floatation device (life vest).
  • Wear protective clothing. Owners manuals suggest wearing a wet suit bottom (which can prevent injury should the jet nozzle get too close to body orifices), footwear, gloves, and goggles.
  • Attach an engine shut-off cord to your wrist so that if you fall off, the engine stops.
  • Don’t allow anyone to operate the vehicle if they are unfamiliar with boating regulations or if they are underage.
  • Treat the watercraft like the high-performance vehicle it is, and not like a toy. Don’t make sharp turns, and don’t try to jump wakes or waves.
  • If someone is behind the vehicle, turn the engine off–throttling up can cause severe injury from the jets.
  • Scan constantly for people, objects, and other watercraft.
  • Don’t “play” by driving too close to people in the water.

To read all the safety guidelines from the PWIA, click here:  PWIA brochure