‘Jet Ski’ Personal Watercraft Safety Called Into Question After Spate of Accidents

Jet skis, wave runners and other “personal watercraft” are more popular than ever this time of year due to the weather and summer vacations, but a spate of high-profile and serious accidents involving the leisure craft’s riders have prompted experts to call for better regulation and education about safely operating the machines.

In the past few weeks, jet skis have been in the news due at least three accidents, two critical and one deadly. Duke University football player Blair Holliday was critically injured in a jet ski mishap, while Usher’s stepson with estranged wife Tameka Foster, Kyle Glover, was declared brain dead after a similar accident involving personal watercraft.

In another tragic circumstance, retired astronaut Capt. Alan Poindexter collided with his 26-year-old son while the pair used jet skis, and died of injuries sustained in the accident. While it may seem that jet ski accidents are all over the news lately, experts warn that the popular activity can be very dangerous for a multitude of reasons — and that much more caution should be exercised when riding a jet ski.

Ron Sarver is deputy director for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (comically and somewhat unfortunately abbreviated as NASBLA). Sarver says that the circumstances we see in the news are far more common when it comes to jet ski use than one might believe, and that currently, far too few safety barriers exist to purchasing and using personal watercraft:

“It’s kind of scary that anybody who has the money can go out and buy a boat and be on the water that afternoon,” Sarver said. “You’ve got this big machine out there that can do some harm. We want people to be out there, but now more than ever, we need for people to be educated.”

In 2011, 44 people were killed in jet ski accidents, up from 38 in 2010.