Causes of Jet Ski Accidents and Personal Watercraft Injuries

Since the introduction of personal watercraft (PWC) in the 1960s, the number of annual Jet Ski accidents has risen steadily. This is mostly due to the exploding popularity of the PWC, their increased availability, and the rise of PWC rentals at beaches and lakes. Jet Skis are much easier to operate than boats and are less expensive, making them a friendly choice for someone not familiar with water navigation. However, this high degree of accessibility also results in a lot of user error and more injuries.

What are the most common causes of Jet Ski accidents?

The number one cause of PWC accidents is operator error. Other causes of PWC crashes include:

  • Operating at unsafe speeds
  • User inexperience or inattention
  • Poor operational instruction by the rental company
  • Defective or missing safety equipment
  • Mechanical failure
  • Unsafe operation of other vessels in the vicinity
  • Poor visibility
  • Dangerous waters or weather conditions
  • Operating the Jet Ski while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs

PWCs offer little protection in the event of an accident, as the operator and passengers are near the surface of the water and any obstructions. These factors and the PWCs high level of agility means every crash has the potential to result in grievous injuries. Injury risk can be mitigated by wearing life jackets and helmets, but rental companies often fail to provide them. Owners of individual PWC also have a responsibility to provide safety equipment for anyone riding.

Brain, neck and spinal cord injuries are common following a jet ski crash. A collision with another vessel, a submerged object, or a sudden grounding can throw the operator or passenger from the watercraft. At high speeds, hitting the ground or another boat can cause severe fractures or brain damage. Colliding with the surface of the water alone is enough to cause severe whiplash or concussions. It’s also common for passengers to be pinned by other vessels after being thrown, and this can cause severe limb damage. Burns and electrocution are also possibilities as PWC motors or electronics may be exposed following a wreck.

How can riders avoid Jet Ski accidents?

These PWC are highly maneuverable, so it is important to consider that even the slightest turn can cause the rider to lose control. Speed is also a factor when operating PWC. It is easy to let the adrenaline take over, but being in complete control is necessary for rider safety. Stay aware of all water traffic around you at all times. Much like driving a car, being aware of others is the key to staying safe and avoiding personal injury.