Personal Watercrafts (PWC) such as Jet Skis, WaveRunners, and Sea-Doos, are popular on Florida’s vast coastline. However, according to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Florida PWC riders and passengers have a higher collision rate than almost any other type of watercraft. PWC accidents occur for various reasons, including operator inexperience, excessive risk-taking, and noncompliance with water safety rules.
Inexperienced operators and passengers are one of the leading causes of PWC accidents in Florida. According to the USCG, the majority of accidents involve operators between the ages of 11 to 20. Only approximately 18% of the accident claims involved owners, meaning that most injury victims do not involve an owner but instead friends or family members. Although some newer PWC models have special settings for new riders that limit the power output, many models do not have this safety function. Moreover, the USCG and National Transportation Safety Board report that over 80% of PWC accidents occur less than an hour into a ride. Nearly half of PWC injury victims reported never operating a device before the accident. As such, the majority of PWC accidents involve young, inexperienced, non-owner operators.
In addition, to rider inexperience, accident claims reveal that over 70% of PWC collisions involve another vessel, usually other PWCs. Inexperienced riders are often unfamiliar with how to control their speed and judge appropriate stopping distances. Even those who are familiar with boats and motorcycles have trouble handling PWCs. For instance, PWC’s do not have traditional brakes and can take over 300 feet to stop when the device is going around 60 mph.