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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Personal Watercraft Accidents Spotlight the Need for Safety

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Experts are increasing efforts to warn people about the dangers of personal high-speed watercraft.

  • On May 20, a 14-year-year-old boy was killed on the Peconic Bay when his Jet Ski crashed into the anchor chain of his family's nearby boat. The boy had recently received his state boating license, and was driving a personal watercraft for the first time.
  • In May, a 24-year-old Ohio woman was killed after riding a Jet Ski over a 10-foot dam; she and another rider were sucked into the current.
  • In June, a 16-year-old teen died from injuries sustained when the inner tube she was riding on was struck by a personal watercraft in Alaska.
  • On July 2, a retired astronaut was killed when his stationary Jet Ski was struck by another jet ski on the Little Sabine Bay in Pensacola Beach, Florida.
  • On July 4, a Duke University sophomore suffered head injuries in a personal watercraft accident; he remains in critical condition.
  • On July 7, an 11-year-old Georgia boy and 15-year-old girl were injured on Lake Lanier when they were hit by a watercraft while being towed on an inner tube by another boat. The boy has been declared brain dead; the girl suffered a cut on the head and a broken arm.

A study by the University of Florida shows that Jet Ski accidents cause far greater injuries than any other boating accidents, with most accidents involving hitting an object. Inexperience and reckless driving are the most common causes of serious or fatal accidents. In fact, operator inexperience and speeding are responsible for 95 percent of all personal watercraft accidents. Although Jet Skis are designed to reach speeds over 60mph, it can cause loss of stability and increased risk of flipping over. Jet Skis also do not have a braking mechanism; the driver must keep the throttle down and actually accelerate to turn quickly and avoid hazards in the water.

The key to personal watercraft safety is education and increased safety laws; 44 states currently require some form of mandatory education. For a complete list of state requirements, click here. The Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA) also urges watercraft operators to:

  • Scan the waters constantly for people, objects, and other crafts.
  • Be attentive and act early to avoid collisions
  • Remember, watercraft do not have brakes.
  • Do not release the throttle when trying to avoid an object, person, or other watercraft; you need the throttle to steer on a PWC.
  • Always wear a personal flotation device.
  • Do not drink and operate a personal watercraft.
  • Operate the craft defensively:

    1. Don’t approach or follow other watercraft too closely.
    2. Don’t riding too close to others.
    3. Avoid sharp turns that can cause you to lose control of the craft.
    4. Make it easy for others to understand what direction you are going.
    5. Avoid areas with submerged objects or shallow water.

Remember, our waterways can be just as dangerous as our roadways so think and drive responsibly!

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

1 Comment

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  1. Julie Arnold says:
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    I agree that safety is of the utmost of importance when riding a jet ski, or in any boating environment. However, there is one false statement in this article. It should read that MOST jet skis do not have brakes. Sea-Doo watercraft are the only watercraft on the market with brakes. This is a VERY important safety feature that I recommend highly!