Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007
Are PWCs dangerous? According to Boat Owners Association of The United States, the
answer to that question depends on who is driving. The most recent figures from the
U.S. Coast Guard and National Marine Manufacturers Association show that PWCs
(personal watercraft) represent 9% of all registered vessels in the U.S., but
account for a whopping 26% of reported boating accidents.
However, BoatU.S. recently looked at the issue and reviewed its member’s insurance
claims files. Interestingly, it found that while PWCs represent 4.3% of all insured
vessels, they account for just 3.8% of all reported accident claims. So what
explains the fact that BoatU.S. PWC insureds have significantly lower accident
“More boating experience and boating safety education is the answer,” said Bob
Adriance, editor of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance’s Seaworthy magazine. “Our
members, on average, have more experience and education compared to the general
boating population," said Adriance. "But you don’t need years of boating
experience to understand the principles of safe PWC operation.”
Adriance offers the following 10 tips that can help PWC operators stay safe:
1. Know your state’s age and education requirements. PWC manufacturers recommend a
minimum operator age of 16 years old.
2. Even if your state doesn’t require it, PWC operators should take a boating
safety course, one that includes the unique handling and operational characteristics
of PWCs. (The BoatU.S. Foundation has an online PWC course available at
3. BoatU.S. claims files show that 70% of PWC collisions are with another vessel,
the majority of which are other PWCs. Try to gain on-the-water PWC experience in an
area away from busy waterways – and other PWCs – where there is plenty of room.
4. Always wear a personal floatation device, attach the engine shut off cord
(lanyard) to your wrist, and remove the cord when not riding to avoid unauthorized
use. Never ride after consuming alcohol.
5. Loaning out your PWC can be risky business. A National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB) report indicates that roughly 84% of PWC accidents involved operators
who had no boating safety education or instruction. If you choose to loan out your
PWC, be fully confident that your friend or family member is of legal age, has
completed a boating safety course, and has the operational ability and knowledge to
operate a PWC.
6. If possible, gain some experience as a passenger on other PWCs before going out
alone. The insights you gain from fellow PWC operators, such as handling, rules of
the road and good boating etiquette, are invaluable.
7. Before heading out, do a thorough check of your PWC, ensuring that the throttle,
switches and steering work properly, fuel lines and battery cables are secure, and
there is no fuel in the bilge.
8. Always operate defensively: keep a safe distance from people, objects or other
PWCs (PWCs can take up to 300 feet to stop from 60 mph); understand a PWCs handling
characteristics and loss of steering when off-throttle; and avoid maneuvers that
make it hard for other boaters to understand where you are going.
9. Never carry more than the maximum passenger load, and never place a passenger in
front of the driver.
10. Remember that a PWC is a boat, and like every other vessel must follow basic
BoatU.S. Marine Insurance is one of the largest specialty marine insurance programs
in the nation with over $8 billion in watercraft hull value insured. All BoatU.S.
Marine Insurance policy holders get a free subscription to Seaworthy. Subscriptions
are also available for $10 a year (4 issues) by going to
http://www.BoatUS.com/seaworthy or by calling 800-262-8082, ext. 3276. If you’d
like to get a free insurance quote for your PWC, go to
http://www.BoatUS.com/Insurance or call 800-283-2883.