Personal WaterCraft & Kids: How to Make Them Fun AND Safe!

Last updated on July 15th, 2018 at 07:35 pm

Watercraft familySummer is fast approaching and that means that thousands of children will be hitting the water looking to go fast! Summer is the time to think about the beach and being outside and speeding around oceans, lakes or canals in PWC or personal watercrafts. PWC have steadily risen in ownership in the U.S to well over a million and with that increase in ownership come’s an increase in operators and injuries to the tune of over 12,000 documented injuries annually. Most injuries seem to occur when PWC collide—either with other vessels including other PWC or with fixed objects such as docks or tree stumps. Behavioral factors cited in 3 studies include operator inexperience (most operators had <20 hours of experience in boat operation), operator inattention, and excess speed or reckless operation. Some PWC can seat as many as 3 people and hit speeds of 60 mph. PWC are the only recreational boats for which the leading cause of death is not drowning; most fatalities result from blunt trauma.

The answer to the question of how to keep our children safe on the water seems to be the same as it has been for quite some time. Education and hands on practice. We need to educate our children and ourselves on water safety, both in and out of the water and both for operating and riding on a PWC. The Personal Watercraft Industry Association has the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. No one younger than 16 years should operate PWC.
  2. The operator and every passenger must wear a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.
  3. Alcohol or other drug use should be avoided before and while operating PWC.
  4. Participation in a safe boater course with specific information about PWC should be required before operating PWC.
  5. Safe operating practices, such as no operation between sunset and sunrise, no wake jumping, and observing posted speed limits or no-wake zones, should be followed. (No-wake zone means the craft speed is slow enough that no wake is formed behind the craft as it crosses a specific area.)
  6. PWC should not be operated where swimmers are in the water.
  7. If a PWC is being used to tow another person on skis, knee boards, tubes, or other devices, a second person must face the rear to monitor the person being towed.
  8. All persons who rent PWC should be required to comply with these recommendations.
  9. Protective equipment such as wet suits, gloves, boots, eyewear, and helmets may be appropriate to wear.

When it comes to PWC, owning and operating a PWC is the same as owning and operating a car and should be treated with the same amount of respect. Would you hand over your car keys to your child who has little to no driver training? Of course not and the same should hold true when it comes to any PWC. The numbers don’t lie. Everyone needs PWC drivers Ed. Putting in the time before hand will save a lot of pain and suffering during what should be the most fun time of the year for kids.

Thank you and be safe

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Editor’s Note:  This post first appeared on Pediatric Safety in April 2013. We thought now might be a good time to revisit it. 

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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