The combination of the Florida sun and glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico draws millions to the beaches each year. Many take the opportunity to rent or take out their own personal watercraft (PWC), including Jet Skis, Wave Runners and Sea Doos.

However, personal watercraft can be dangerous vessels for even the most practiced drivers. In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that of the 4,291 boating accidents that occurred, 18 percent involved PWC. Familiarizing yourself with key safety precautions can contribute to the safety of both yourself and other boaters and swimmers.

Top contributors of boating accidents

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, top contributing factors to recreational boating accidents include operator inattention or inexperience, driving too fast, failure of machinery, alcohol and hazardous water or weather conditions. Accidents can result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), severe injuries to the neck or spinal cord and broken bones.

Safely operating personal watercraft to prevent an accident

Many assume driving a Jet Ski or other PWC to be simple or even comparable to riding a bike. Whether you are an experienced or inexperienced PWC driver, keeping a few safety tips in mind can enhance the safety of everyone around you and help to avoid dangerous situations:

  • Be mindful of speed and braking. Jet Skis and other PWC can take a while to come to a full stop. Watch your speed and take your time to slow down.
  • Avoid aggressive maneuvers. Refrain from careless or reckless maneuvers, like closely following the wakes of other boats, making sharp turns and more.
  • Wear a life jacket. Life jackets can save lives, especially if your PWC flips over or suddenly encounters large waves or the wake of another boat.
  • Learn the emergency safety measures. PWCs come equipped with engine shut-off switches or cords. Learn how to use these in the event of an accident.
  • Be cautious when renting. PWC rentals are abundant on Florida beaches but make sure you rent from a reputable, law-abiding source with safe equipment.

Suffering a serious injury on the water can be devastating. Keeping key safety tips in mind, refraining from drinking and operating PWCs and taking the time to learn how to properly operate a Jet Ski or other PWC can help keep everyone safe.

For experienced legal guidance after suffering an injury, contact the Law Offices of John W. Merting, P.A.