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David Mittleman
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Personal Water Crafts, aka Jet Skis, Increase Risk When Boating

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Personal
Water Crafts, otherwise known as jet skis, are fundamentally different from conventional boats in terms
of design, operation and use. They
are designed to allow them to be operated at high speeds in shallow
water close to the shore. Jet skis are highly maneuverable and can
exceed speeds of 65 mph, and are marketed as thrill ride vehicles,
capable of weaving in and out of other vessels, jumping waves, and
360 degree turns at high speeds. They account for one third of all
boat sales and are the one of the fastest growing segments of the
boating
industry

in the U.S. However, the accident rates for jet skis far exceed their
proportion to other motor boats.

Jet skis have a shallow draft which allows them to operate close the shore,
but this also makes capsizing more likely. The chance of drowning
goes up significantly in these instances. Impact with the water or
another vessel at high speeds can cause broken bones and soft tissue
damage, and/or render the passenger unconscious, which can lead to
drowning.

According
the U.S.
Department of Transportation

and the Coast
Guard

in a 2001 report, 322 boating
fatalities
(pdf, pg. 14) occurred on boats less than 16 feet in
length; this includes jet skis. Alcohol is involved in about one-third
of all boating deaths. With blood alcohol levels in excess of .10,
boat operators are 10 times more likely to cause boating accidents as
compared to a sober operator. Moreover, about 80% of a boating
fatalities involve an operator who has not completed a boating
safety
course. This negligent approach to the operation of jet skis
leads to accidents that involve careless and/or reckless operation,
inexperience, failure to pay adequate attention, and speeding.

The
State
of Michigan

requires that “boaters must be at least 12 years of age, or turn 12
during the current boating season, to receive their boater safety
certificate. Michigan residents under 16 years of age are required
to pass a classroom boating safety course to obtain a boater safety
certificate. However, a Michigan boater who is at least 16 years of
age may take a NASBLA ( National
Association of Boating Law Administrators
)
approved on-line boating safety course instead of attending a
classroom program. PWCSafetySchool.com
is an approved NASBLA course; however Michigan boaters must still
take a proctored exam to be issued a valid Michigan boater
certificate .

To
reduce the risk of these accidents, jet ski operators should exercise due
diligence on the water, wear a life-vest, complete a boater safety
class, and refrain from operating while under the influence of drugs

and/or alcohol.