Jet skis can provide lots of fun for you and your family; however, everyone who drives them needs to make sure they know how to operate them safely.
According to the USCG, about 800-900 injuries happen, and around 40-50 people die each year from jet skis. This is the second highest among boat types, just under open motorboat (which is much more popular). Of these casualties, teenagers ages 15-17 and young adults are responsible for the majority. Lacerations, broken bones, and concussions are among the top of the injury list.
Considering that over 5 million people participate in jet skiing every year, this number may not be alarming to you, but it does not capture all data. And 40-50 deaths a year, no matter the number of participants, should be a concern.
Other statistics worth mentioning
- The most common type of watercraft accident is collision with another vessel
- Drowning accounts for about 50% of deaths related to jet ski accidents (which is the highest)
- About 13% of jet ski casualties resulted in death
- The top 10 contributing factors to a watercraft accident include:
- Operator inattention
- Improper lookout
- Operator inexperience
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol use
- Machinery failure
- Navigation rules violation
- Hazardous waters
- Force of wave/wake
Data from United States Coast Guard
18 jet ski safety tips
- Only those who have taken boater’s safety should drive jet skis
- Avoid turning sharply while traveling at high speeds
- Don’t drive a jet ski while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Try to always cross wakes going perpendicular to them and not parallel
- Stand up in choppy situations to avoid back injury
- Always wear a life jacket
- Always connect the kill switch cord to your life jacket or wrist anytime you start the engine
- Don’t drive fast in water less than 6 feet deep
- Always inform riders before taking off
- Purchase a jet ski that has breaks and can go in reverse
- Know how long it takes for your jet ski to slow down
- Make sure you get a feel for your jet ski before you start doing doughnuts and jumping wakes
- Keep your distance (at least 100 feet) from other boats and especially other jet skis
- Keep your hands, hair, and feet away from the jet and underneath the jet ski wear the intake pump is located
- Map out any shallow spots by using a depth map such as this one: Navionics
- Make sure you check the weather before going out
- Make sure you do proper maintenance to avoid sudden engine failure when out on the water (big one)
- Although not required by law, I recommend bringing flairs in case you get stranded. Otherwise, a distress flag or signal mirror will work as well.
What are the safest jet skis on the market?
Generally, larger jet skis tend to be more stable and heavier, which makes landing jumps and doing doughnuts a lot smoother and less likely to cause injury. However, most jet skis of this size can reach very high speeds, which can be dangerous for someone who doesn’t know how to properly control the ski.
Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the safest jet skis on the market:
1. Sea-Doo Fish Pro
Personally, we have owned one of these for a few years now, and they are nothing short of stable jet skis. They are built with a larger more stable hull, high side railings, and a long platform on the back. This means the ski won’t be flying very high in the air off wakes and can handle sharp turns relatively well.
Along with that, the top speed is 55 mph. This may seem like a lot for you, but there is an option to use a learning key that maxes out at around 30 mph.
2. Kawasaki Ultra LX
If you don’t want a fishing jet ski and want something more meant for recreational use (and is a little cheaper), check out the Kawasaki Ultra LX. Its top speed is about 55 mph which is fast but slower than some of the others on the market.
It is very stable like the fish pro and can handle waves much better than most other jet skis on the market.
3. Sea-Doo Spark
Although sparks may not be as large and stable as other jet skis on this list, it is much slower. The 60hp version tops out at around 40mph, which is perfect as that’s plenty of speed, and also isn’t too dangerous. As long as you know how to properly handle the spark and don’t go off any huge wakes, it is safe (also very inexpensive).
Should you let your teenager drive a jet ski?
It’s almost every kid’s dream to grow up and drive a jet ski, but making sure they understand the possible danger involved in doing so is important. Make sure your teenager finishes boaters safety and reads over all of the safety tips from this article.
When it comes down to it, it’s your (the parent’s) decision on if you trust your teenager enough to handle a jet ski. If so, it is a great way to give them freedom and learn basic responsibility. You can always only give them the leaning keys at first before you trust them enough to give them the regular keys.
Wearing a water helmet could be a great idea if you plan on doing lots of wake jumping and crazy doughnuts. Concussions are among one of the most common injuries while driving a jet ski, so it could only help protect you.
It is usually going to hurt if you fall off your jet ski going faster than 30 mph. However, as long as you don’t turn sharply at those speeds or go off any crazy wakes, you won’t fall off easily. Most of the time you fall off of a jet ski, you aren’t going much faster than 15 mph because you’ll be doing doughnuts or whiplashes. However, it can still hurt and cause injury, especially if people on board fall on each other.
If a jet ski flips over, you can put your weight on one side of it to flip it back over. They are built to be flipped, so there is generally no problem in doing so. However, if it is just you, it may be a struggle to flip it back over.