Spring is upon us and the onset of warm weather hearkens a return to the out of doors and the variety of water sports that New Jersey has to offer, including boating and the use of personal water craft.  And at the risk of coming across as a wet blanket, I’d like to remind our readers of the need for safety and courtesy on the water.  The promise of fun in the sun can be shattered in an instant if you, or those around you, fail to use care and good judgment.

Many of use will use, or encounter those using, jetskis or other personal water craft this year.  Statistics show that there are approximately 1.5 million such craft in use annually in this country, and that over 20 million Americans use them each year.  From the numbers, you can clearly see that the vast majority of those operators are not the owners.  And, unfortunately, statistics also show that most have never received training or education on the how to safely use or handle the equipment.  There is much more than simply knowing where the throttle is located, how to turn the machine on or off, and what to do if you fall off.  Personal water craft are “motorized vessels”, essentially a boat, and they are obligated to abide by the same navigational rules.  

Here are some tips if you plan to use personal water craft:

  1. Stay alert, consider those around you, and take a boating safety course. According to Coast Guard statistics, excessive speed, inattention and inexperience are the 3most common causes of boating accidents.  And, according to the NTSB, approximately 84% of persons involved in accidents with personal water craft have never received instruction in boating safety.
  2. Always wear a proper, Coast Guard approved safety vest.  
  3. Slow down well in advance of hazards, and maintain as much distance to other persons and craft as the circumstances will allow.  Personal water craft do not have brakes and, like a boat, may take more time to turn or alter course than you may suspect.
  4. Remember that the throttle on a personal water craft aids in the stability of the vessel at speed.  As such, you may actually have better control under power than you would by simply releasing the throttle.  In other words, letting go of the gas when you see a hazard may not help and may even make the problem worse.  On this point, there is no substitute for experience. If you plan to use jetskis, get some practice before you venture into areas frequented by other water sports enthusiasts.  
  5. Never assume that others on the water know what they are doing.  Be proactive.  And take action to protect yourself to the extent possible.  If you see someone who appears to be acting carelessly, or doesn’t seem to know how to use the craft they are operating, take precautions to protect yourself to the extent possible.
  6. Never mix alcohol or drugs with water craft.  
  7. If you or anyone you know are injured in connection with personal water craft, seek the necessary medical attention, file the proper reports, and consult an attorney.