Among the most dangerous sentences you may hear while on the water in Panama City is, “Can I borrow your PWC?” Sure, you can perfectly understand someone asking to borrow a personal watercraft, especially after seeing how much fun they are. However, passing your keys to someone who has no training or experience or who is too young to effectively handle the craft is a mistake than can lead to tragedy.
The National Traffic Safety Board and other agencies have endless statistics to support the recklessness of putting an inexperienced driver in control of a PWC. For example, over 80 percent of PWC accidents involve someone who has had no instructions for operating a watercraft. Over 70 percent of those accidents occur within the first hour of the ride. While you may be smart enough not to loan your PWC to a neophyte, others on the water may not have learned their lesson.
The unique characteristics of a PWC
Controlling a PWC is unlike any other type of vehicle. For example, they have no brakes, so you need to allow up to 300 feet to come to a stop if your craft is traveling 60 mph. Additionally, the steering mechanism requires a PWC to be in motion, so if a new rider panics because he or she is heading for trouble, releasing the throttle prevents the operator from turning the craft away from the danger. This scenario is among the most common causes of PWC crashes.
When the vehicle does having turning capability, an inexperienced rider may not realize how sharply the PWC turns, resulting in the rider being thrown from the vehicle, often violently into the water.
Common PWC accident injuries
More than one third of all water accidents involve a PWC, and 70 percent of those accidents include colliding with another PWC or a boat. Collisions between PWCs and other crafts can be tragic, resulting in more injuries than other types of PWC accidents. Some injuries you may expect to see following a PWC accident include these:
- Broken bones
- Broken noses and teeth
- Broken tailbones
- Internal injuries
- Broken necks
Of course, any kind of collision at high speeds can result in catastrophic or fatal injuries.
As many precautions as you may take to be safe on the water, you can never predict how others will behave, especially if they are on vacation or have been drinking alcohol. While boating safety advocates continue to lobby for crafts manufactured with speed caps, you have to rely on the common sense of others to obey the rules and watch out for you and your family.