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How unsafe it can be to operate personal watercraft in Florida

Sea-Doos and jet skis are the go-to personal watercraft of many looking to cool down on a hot Florida day. The thrill that someone gets from riding one of these is not all that different from what a motorcyclist feels when he or she takes to an open highway. Jet ski operators enjoy the feeling moving fast on the top of the waves, being sprayed by salt water and having the wind blowing around them.

While these watercraft may be fun to ride, they can be particularly unsafe, especially for inexperienced operators.

Much like motorcyclists, Sea-Doo riders lack the protection of a cover or shell around them to keep them safe from rocks, boats or other hard surfaces or fixed objects that they may come upon while out on the water. And, unlike motorbikes, jet skis don't feature brakes. This means that if a personal watercraft operator comes across something in his or her path, he or she may not be able to miss it unless he or she has advanced navigational skills.

The 2017 Boating Accident Statistical Report was recently released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It shows that, of all registered water vessels in the state, at least 13 percent are personal watercraft.

That same report shows that 151 of the boating incidents that occurred last year involved water vessels like jet skis or Sea-Doos. This number accounts for one-fifth of all boating accidents last year. Nearly 50 percent of the personal watercraft involved in such incidents in Florida last year were rented instead of owned.

At least 63 of the incidents occurred when a jet ski or Sea-Doo was collided into another water vessel. In total, 67 fatalities resulted from all Florida boating accidents in 2017. Of those who were killed, 11 were either operators or passengers who were riding on personal watercraft at the time.

In between tourists and area residents, hundreds if not thousands of inexperienced personal watercraft operators will take to Florida's many lakes and beaches this summer. If either you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries out on the water, then a Gulf Breeze attorney can advise you of your right to sue for damages in your case.

Source: TC Palm, "Boating tip: PWCs don't have brakes," May 31, 2018

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