The Oct. 10 fatal jet ski crash near Fort Myers serves as a reminder that, although we in Florida love our jet skis driving them can be a dangerous way to have fun. Nevertheless, by following certain safety steps, jet ski lovers — and there are many in our state — can continue to have a good time.
According to WINK-TV, an Orlando resident crashed into a piling at a high speed off Captiva Island and died. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate the Floridian, whose jet ski’s handlebars ripped off from the force of the impact. Accidents like these are tragic and can be complicated by Florida’s often uncooperative waters.
Encountering the worst is uncommon, but preparing for it is still wise. Many accidents can be avoided with proper precautions, some of which might not be considered even by the avid rider. Here are four tips for having a successful outing on the open water.
1. Know Before You Go
Many accidents can be avoided simply by taking stock of some specifics about your ride. Simple steps like determining if weather is suitable, examining the layout of the area you plan to ride, and noting nearby traffic can be important information that may keep you safe.
It’s also important to remember jet skis change with their occupants. Many are overcrowded even with two people, and should not be driven at the same speed or intensity. If you encounter an unfamiliar model, you should strive to understand the craft you’re planning to drive.
Your common sense is important, too. Avoid riding when danger might be higher, like after dark, or when the waters are congested.
2. The Right Gear Can Save Your Life
Wearing and carrying the proper equipment can prevent disaster. According to the Coast Guard, a life jacket is perhaps the most important tool to guarantee your safety, and several different kinds are approved for use. Choose the one best fitting your journey. A waterproof flare kit secured on your jet ski or a whistle attached to your vest can also aid rescuers in locating you and your companions.
Using a leash on a PWC is generally considered inadvisable. Jet skis are propelled by an inboard engine that could harm occupants if they are caught near it. Most jet skis do, however, come equipped with a so-called “dead man’s” switch. The key used to operate the jet ski can then be fastened to your life vest and enable you to reach your vessel again should you fall off, allowing you to safety return to land or assist others that may be injured.
3. Don’t Get Lazy
Many things, either on the water or ashore, can distract you from safely using your PWC. These can range from the mundane, like waving to friends and taking your eyes off the water in front of you, to the dangerous, such as running into choppy water, rip currents, or vegetation.
You can avoid much of this simply by focusing on the ocean and your other surroundings. This includes taking stock of nearby boats, buoys, and other objects like manatees.
Remember that the further out you go, the more inherent the danger of operating a jet ski is. There are fewer opportunities for people to reach you, and a change in weather or even tide could make the journey home much more difficult. The Coast Guard highlights understanding your craft as the greatest asset towards a safe journey. This includes keeping track of other necessities, such as fuel, which can also ensure your safety when maneuvering a PWC.
4. Have Fun, But Be Responsible
Many people who consume alcohol, drive recklessly, or otherwise exhibit unsafe boating behavior often also do so with company. Avoid other jet skis or boats driving sporadically, playing very loud music, or possessing visibly open alcohol containers. All may indicate a distracted or inattentive driver.
If you’re driving your own jet ski, or you are the passenger on one, make sure your own crew aren’t also contributing to an unsafe situation. Avoiding unnecessary safety risks can help to ensure you have an uninterrupted great time out on the water.
But What If There’s an Accident Anyway?
However, sometimes people driving a PWC don’t follow these and other precautions when bringing passengers out onto the open water. It’s not acceptable when a driver takes too many risks, such as reckless navigation or drinking and driving, that lead to you getting hurt.