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Personal Watercraft Accidents in Florida

December 20, 2008

With thousands of miles of shoreline and inland waterways, Florida is the boating capital of the United States.  Along with operators of conventional boats in Florida, thousands take to the water each day on personal water craft (PWC), commonly known as Jet Skis or Waverunners. If you don’t own one, stop in any town along the coast and you will not have any difficulty finding a business that will rent you one.  Waverunners and Jetskis are fast and fun, but also extremely dangerous unless operated by an experienced person and more than one show-off has been at the wrong end of personal watercraft accidents in Florida.

A PWC operates much like a motorcycle.  They’re small, maneuverable, fast, and seemingly simple to use. You just climb aboard, start it, and twist the throttle. The next thing you know you’re flying across the water throwing spray every time you shift your body.   We have all seen them off the coast of Florida, spinning endless 360 degree turns at high rates of speed.  Even though they operate on the water, PWC’s are ever bit as dangerous as a motorcycle when operated improperly, and probably more dangerous than a normal boat. The danger that comes with a PWC is caused by two things: operator inexperience and a small, extremely fast vessel that can turn on a dime, and accelerate like a motorcycle to speeds exceeding 65 miles per hour.  Many cities have attempted to ban or severely restrict the use the PWC’s, not only because of the noise they cause, but because of the danger they create to those around them.

A recent University of Florida study showed that PWC accidents cause far greater injuries than other boating mishaps.  The study found that riders involved in personal watercraft accidents in Florida sustain more closed-head injuries, more trauma to the chest and abdomen, and more broken bones than compared to riders in a boat.   Because there are no seatbelts or anything else to hold down the rider, riders are usually ejected from the vehicle during a collision, going airborne into the next stationary object, whether it is the water, a steel channel marker, or another boat.

Joseph M. Maus, a Pompano Beach attorney who specializes in boating accidents and personal watercraft accidents in Florida says the two most common causes of PWC accidents is operator inexperience, and high rates of speed.  “You have to understand that just about anybody can buy or rent a boat, jetski or waverunner capable of doing 50-60 miles per hour with literally no training on how to operate it, no knowledge of navigational markers, or how to handle the tides and seas.  When you add in the fact that these waverunners and jetskis are being operated near crowded beach areas, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.”

Maus recommends several safety tips to avoid becoming a statistic for personal watercraft accidents in Florida:
1  Start with reading owner’s manual so you understand the controls and features of your personal water craft.
2.  Wear the proper safety equipment. An approved PFD life jacket Type I or Type II which will keep your head afloat in the event of an accident is a must.
3.  Attach a whistle to your life jacket in case you need to summon help, and to alert other boat traffic.
4.  Never operate your personal water craft without the safety lanyard attached to you. The lanyard cuts the engine if you fall, and could save a long swim home.
5.  Never operate at night – its against the law.
6.  Keep a lookout for other boats and water craft, especially sail boats. Stay at least 100 feet away.
7.  Do not operate your water craft after you’ve been drinking. Just like operating a car while impaired, drinking while boating has caused many boating and personal watercraft accidents in Florida.
8.  Know the water you’re operating in so you can avoid weeds, rocks, and sandbars.
9.  Florida law requires that anyone under the age of 16 needs a boating safety certificate obtained by successful completion of a boating safety course, or be accompanied by someone over age 18.

For more information about personal watercraft accidents in Florida, contact Florida boating accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today.

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