Many children and families head out on the water during the warm, summer months. They enjoy participating in any number of different activities. One of the main activities that many children enjoy is riding or operating a personal watercraft. Back in the 70s when these vessels were first released, they were designed to accommodate one individual and only had a horsepower of 40. Today, you can easily find vessels with horsepower of 125-135 that can reach 65-70 mph. The most popular of all these vessels is the Sea-Doo.
These vessels cost about $4,000-8,000. They are getting faster and bigger, making it where more and more individuals end up getting injured from traveling at these fast rates of speed. The manufacturers are targeting the younger population with their splashy designs, advertisements and appealing features. Because of all the dangers associated with someone 18 or under driving these vessels, many states are imposing regulations that govern their operation.
Many indications indicate that injuries, fatalities and disabilities are quickly increasing as more and more people head out and enjoy riding these vessels. Injuries have doubled from back in 1990-1994. Operators under 20 years of age have experienced a 50% increase during the same time period.
Over a 30-month timeframe, the Arkansas waterways recorded 57 injuries, four deaths and 82 wrecks involving these vessels. The majority of the time it was the operator who caused the event to occur. Individuals under 18 were responsible for 43% of all accidents. Most of them had less than 20 hours of riding experience and 98% of those had never taken a boating education class. Roughly, 70% of all passengers were under 18 as well.
Out of the 27 injuries reported to individuals under the age of 19, four were to the neck and head, one was to an upper body extremity, four were to a lower extremity and the remaining 18 didn’t have a body part named. Some of the common injuries included lacerations, fractures, sprains, drowning, abrasions and more. Out of those who were injured, about 70% of them were the ones driving the vessel.
Common reasons why the accidents occurred in the first place were inexperience, negligent operation and inattention. Most of the time, the accident occurred from two vehicles crashing into one another. It is because of this that letting a minor operate one of these large, powerful machines is extremely dangerous, especially when they don’t have the proper training or experience to handle the machine properly.
Most of the accidents that occurred were because the driver wasn’t paying attention or they simply didn’t go through the proper training to make sure they knew what they were doing out on the water. Only one of the children had actually went through a boating education class. Out of all the states in the US, only 16 require some form of boating education and just 10 require special training for operating a personal watercraft. A personal watercraft is much different when it comes to maneuvering, handling and other features. A mandatory training program for those who never operated one of these vessels could help improve the driver’s skills and appreciation for all of the different responsibilities that come with operating these boats.
There are 43 states with some form of age restriction in place that limits the age of an operator. The age varies from 10 on up to 16 years of age. There are six states that require a license to operate the vessel. There are also regulations in place for speeding, policies and restrictions. While you should be wearing a helmet when riding, no state has a law in place for it. Because of the risks involved, a helmet would be ideal for preventing injuries.
With so many children being injured on a personal watercraft, it’s about time that something is done to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring in the first place.