There’s no more exhilarating way to enjoy a day on the water than atop a personal watercraft, a small vessel on which you sit or stand, rather than ride inside of like a boat. But, with the horsepower of a large outboard engine and the acceleration of a motorcycle, a personal watercraft is no toy.
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It’s a Class A vessel, subject to all the same laws as boats under 16 feet. So, before you jump on and zip across the water, get up to speed on these regulations and safety tips.
Personal Watercraft Regulations
Per federal regulations, personal watercraft must be registered with a validation sticker and registration number displayed on the vessel. State regulations vary, but may require operators to be of a minimum age (usually 14 to 16), complete a safe boating course and/or obtain an operator’s certificate. State and local governments may also limit speed, hours and areas of operation.
Required equipment for personal watercraft includes:
- A Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard and anyone being towed.
- A Coast Guard-approved B-1 fire extinguisher.
- A sound signaling device such as a whistle or a horn.
- An emergency engine cutoff lanyard attached to the operator.
- A functioning backfire flame arrestor and passive ventilation system.
Personal Watercraft Safety
Once you meet all of the above requirements, you also need to know a few rules of the waterway. Follow these 12 tips to inject some much-needed safety and sanity into your personal watercraft adventures.
- Keep away from shorelines, rocky areas and other vessels, especially ones towing wakeboarders or tubers. Also keep an eye out for people in the water.
- Learn the meaning of navigation marks and signs.
- Never ride after consuming drugs or alcohol.
- Carry no more passengers than the vessel’s rating allows.
- Check your craft for proper function before riding.
- Respect ecologically sensitive areas and wildlife.
- Always give priority to large vessels, sailboats under sail and paddle craft.
- When meeting another craft head-on, steer to the right and pass like cars.
- If overtaking another boat, pass on either side, but keep clear.
- Crossing paths with another vessel, let the craft on the right continue at the same speed and direction, while you alter speed and direction to pass safely behind.
- Always maintain a proper lookout to avoid collisions by scanning constantly.
- If unsure about the rules, reduce speed and take early defensive action.
Finally, be sure you have the insurance coverage you need for your personal watercraft. Think about agreed value coverage that will cover a total loss after the deductible without a complicated depreciation formula. And, look for ways to customize your coverage with options such as emergency assistance, as well as roadside assistance for your towing vehicle and trailer.
Remember, having fun and staying safe on your personal watercraft aren’t mutually exclusive. So, do both and enjoy the ride. And, don’t forget the sunscreen!
Looking for some more safety tips but on land? Check out our distracted driving blog to stay safe on the road!