At speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, personal watercraft (PWC), like jet skis, can bring thrills as well as danger. Inexperienced PWC drivers may not know that there is no brake on a jet ski and that a person’s natural inclination to cut the power and turn when facing danger may be the wrong move to make.
During the summer of 2012, a 31 year-old man drowned after his jet ski hit rocks in Lago Vista, Texas. His jet-ski accident is just one of many collisions, big and small, which occur when the Texas lakes and rivers become crowded during the hot summer months.
In Texas, PWCs are subject to unique regulations, as well as to all boating laws. Personal watercrafts are defined as “a type of motorboat which is specifically designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel rather than inside the vessel.” PWCs include jet skis and wet bikes. Each person on the jet ski must wear a United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device; inflatable life jackets do not meet this requirement. Any person being towed by a PWC is considered an occupant of the PWC and is required to wear a life jacket. Also, if the PWC is equipped with a cut-off or kill switch, it must be attached to the operator of the PWC.
A person cannot operate a PWC at night, and children 13 and under cannot operate a PWC unless accompanied on board by lawful PWC operator over 18. To become a lawful PWC operator most operators must first pass an approved Texas Parks and Wildlife Department safety course. There are also numerous other PWC regulations of which operators should be aware.
However, despite the numerous state and federal PWC laws on the books, jet ski manufacturers are not doing their part to protect people from known defects in their products. Many jet skis and personal watercraft have inherent flaws which can lead to serious injuries and death. They are often grossly overpowered and become out-of-control in the hands of inexperienced or younger riders, presenting a danger to the users and others in the area. The problem is further exacerbated if the jet ski does not automatically deactivate.
Another concern with many jet-propelled watercrafts is the water propulsion system itself. When users are thrown from or fall off such jet skis, the water from the jet propulsion system can cause severe orifice and internal damage. Often the instructions and warnings relating to the inherent risks associated with the safe use of such personal watercraft are inadequate, and accidents and injuries result.
Common injuries for jet ski accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Serious neck and back injuries
- Fractured ankles
- Dislocated orbital sockets
- Damaged ear drums
- Broken wrist
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Those injured in a jet ski or PWC accident should seek medical treatment from a qualified medical professional. It is important that MRI, CT and Neurology reports be conducted to determine the extent or scope of injuries.
Before you or your loved ones hit the water this summer, be sure to go over proper safety measures. From life jackets to understanding right-of-way laws on the water and how to avoid a head-on jet ski wreck, taking the time to go over key safety facts can help you avoid an accident on the water.