Personal watercraft safety

Published May 4, 2007

National statistics show that eight of 10 personal watercraft accidents involve a collision with another boat, often another personal watercraft.

Riders often follow each other too closely. They lose track of one another and end up in a collision if they make a sudden turn.

Always look in all directions for boats, skiers, divers, swimmers and other personal watercraft. Don't jump the wakes of other boats.

Many deaths could be avoided if everyone wore life jackets, refrained from drinking and driving and took time to learn the rules of navigation.

Here are more tips:

- Remember, you are not the only boat on the water. Take a safe-boating class. Learn the do's and don'ts. Keep away from swimmers and bathers. When a personal watercraft collides with a human, the human never wins.

-Be careful about pollution. Refuel on land to avoid spilling oil or gas into the water.

-Stick to the main channels where the water is deeper. In shallow water, boats can stir up the bottom and cloud the water. This limits light penetration and depletes oxygen, which can affect fish and bird feeding.

- Keep an eye out for sea grasses. These are nursery areas for a variety of fish and can be damaged by engines.

-Give anglers wide berth. Your engine's noise can disturb nesting birds, not to mention people. Fishermen are particularly sensitive. If you see somebody with a line in the water, don't motor up and ask what's biting.

-Leave wildlife alone. Don't follow dolphins or chase birds. Wildlife harassment is illegal. And be alert for manatees and other endangered species.

-Watch your speed. Excessive boat wakes contribute to shoreline erosion.

-Dock only in appropriate areas. Many turtles and birds use Florida's beaches as nesting areas. Don't pull up and tie off to mangroves.