Report: Half of boating accidents involve personal watercraft
The NTSB says most personal watercraft accidents and deaths involve operators with no boat-safety education
NTSB calls for new safety standards
May 19, 1998
Web posted at: 6:06 p.m. EDT (2206 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal safety officials say half of all
boating accidents involve people using personal watercraft such
as Jet Skis. The National Transportation Safety Board is
calling for new safety regulations.
A new NTSB survey released Tuesday notes that while boating
fatalities have dropped overall in the past decade, those
involving personal watercraft have jumped dramatically. In 1993, the safety board recorded 26 such deaths, while preliminary 1997 numbers indicate 83 people died in personal watercraft accidents.
Board members, at a meeting Tuesday in Washington, also noted
that the main cause of death in the category of personal
watercraft is not drowning but blunt trauma.
Philip Martinez knows the dangers of the sport.
"I was about 20 feet out of the water (six meters) when I
came down and hit my head on the front end and cracked my
skull," Martinez says of the accident that put him in a coma
for three weeks.
Personal watercraft account for one-third of all new boat sales
Users receive no training
NTSB Chairman Jim Hall called the industry's rapid growth "an
American success story" but said personal watercraft can also
"They are designed to capsize ... and many operators you
encounter have no training."
Investigators found that only 16 percent of users ever
received any instruction on how to pilot the powerful,
highly-maneuverable machines. The NTSB says an overwhelming
number of accidents involve inexperienced users; 48 percent
were riding for only the first or second time.
The report says a common mistake is letting up on the
throttle when attempting to avoid an obstacle, not realizing
that doing so diminished their vessel's steering ability.
Watercraft manufacturers questioned the survey's validity,
and noted that 97 percent of users involved in accidents were
wearing life jackets, and that only a small percentage of
accidents involved alcohol.
In response to the increase in accidents and fatalities, the
NTSB is recommending a mandatory minimum age for users and a
mandatory safety course.
About one-third of all boat sales are for personal watercraft
with brand names such as Jet Ski and WaveRunner.