Personal Watercraft Safety

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A personal watercraft is defined by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Class A inboard vessel, under 13 feet in length, powered by an inboard motor and a jet pump, that is designed to be operated by a person or persons standing, sitting, or kneeling on the craft rather than within the confines of a hull. What this means is that a personal watercraft is a small, unenclosed boat that is powered by an engine inside the vessel which pulls in water through a port in the bottom of the boat and expels it at high pressure through an aimable nozzle that controls direction.

Personal watercraft have only become popular for use by the general public in the last ten years or so, but have proven in that short time to be very dangerous both to the operator and to other people sharing a body of water with jet skiers. There are several reasons for this. The main hazard in personal watercraft use is the low visibility of jet skis. Because they are so small, personal watercraft are very difficult to see, especially when both they are moving quickly and a boater is moving. Another cause of accidents is the general lack of knowledge how another boater will behave. A lake is, in essence, a huge, empty, trackless arena where boaters may drive wherever they wish, often at high speeds.

While personal watercraft safety courses aren’t mandatory in most areas, there are some States that require operators to have a certificate proving that they passed a certified course. There are already some private organizations offering these courses, but each course is not approved by every State. There are two courses, though, that are certified everywhere and are generally agreed upon to be the most comprehensive ones available. These classes are offered by the United States Coast Guard and by the U.S. Power Squadrons, a volunteer program that works through the Coast Guard. These courses are usually available for a low price and a small materials fee.

These Coast Guard safety courses have several different formats, but all cover the same material. There are periodical classes that could be daily, weekly, or anything in-between. There are also classes that are self-paced, and are passed by a proctored examination. All these classes cover several aspects of the safe operation of personal watercraft. Some of the topics in the U.S. Power Squadrons Jet
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