Personal water crafts (PWC) are the only recreational watercraft associated as a leading cause of death in boating accidents other than drowning. In 2004 25% of PWC fatalities were due to drowning; all other deaths were caused by other injuries mainly the off-throttle steering (OTS). PWC users die because of blunt force trauma, involving a collision with another craft, floating objects or a swimmer.
One of the most serious dangers of the PWC is the lost of steering. This happens when the throttle is released or the craft is in the off power position. When facing a collision the operator’s natural instinct is to release the throttle to reduce speed and alter course. What the operator should do is engage the throttle and turn. PWC have no rudders to control steering and no brakes. PWC do not respond to the way an operator would expect them to respond, once the operator releases the throttle, the ability to control the craft is gone.
At the end of 2004 National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) estimated the 1.5 million PWCs were being used. PWC distributers use experienced riders to market the PWC, the driver is shown jumping waves, turning sharply and operating close to other PWCs, while these drivers are experts, the inexperienced drivers can injury themselves.
The government’s response; was to enact a study by the National Transportation Safety board (NTSB) The NTSB found the PWCs constituted only 7.4 % of recreational crafts in 1998, but 51% of reported “boating accidents” and 41% of “boating injuries” The study found at high risk “ PWC accidents that involve operator error and inexperience “.
One – third of users involved in a collision used the PWC less than 10 times before the accident. One-fourth of PWCs accidents are linked to steering, in off-throttle and off power situation’s
The NTSB issued a recommendation to improve operation knowledge to PWC manufacturers, the US Coast Guard and states. Most states have mandated personal flotation device use, boater education and safety instruction at PWC operations. However, the PWC industry and Coast Guard have been less than responsive to the issues