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Are jet skis dangerous? People ask this question all the time, especially beginners.

The truth is that if you learn the basics of riding a jet ski, and if it’s been properly maintained, you can definitely reduce the risks so that you’re not worried every time you ride a jet ski.

However, even experienced riders can cause jet ski accidents, and accidents can also be due to mechanical problems. In a worst-case scenario, the jet ski could explode! This would be a very rare occurrence, but it is a possibility.

It’s more common though for others to crash into you on the water! Any one of these incidents could cause jet ski injuries, and even fatalities.

We at JetDrift have compiled information on the dangers of riding jet skis, along with the most common types of accidents and the injuries that can result.

It would certainly help you to have this information so keep reading so that you can lessen your chances of having an accident while riding your jet ski.

Are jet skis dangerous? The risks

If you’re still asking the question, “Are jet skis dangerous?” you should know that they certainly can be.

This is why there is such an emphasis on safety anytime you are out on the water. Sadly, compared to being on a boat, when you’re on a jet ski you are far more vulnerable, and more likely to get injured.

You’ve probably seen various reports on the news about the worst jet ski accidents and the injuries or deaths that resulted.

But, don’t let these reports scare you away from the sport!

You need to know that there are about 1.5 million registered jet skis in the U.S. alone. The average owner spends 30 hours riding their jet ski a year, which translates to 45 million hours a year when people are riding jet skis in the U.S., not to mention everywhere else in the world!

So, there are definitely going to be accidents. But, if you look at how many serious jet ski accidents there are that result in injuries and compare those to how many hours are spent riding, it’s clear that the vast majority of rides end safely.

However, when there is an accident the chances are fairly high that there will be jet ski injuries because there is nothing to protect the jet skier, except his/her life jacket. According to the law a jet skier must wear a life jacket to save them from drowning, but it won’t do much else.

At competitions, riders are required to wear a helmet. But when people are out just having fun on their jet ski, they rarely wear a helmet, even though jet ski accidents can cause serious head injuries.

This is why it’s so important that you learn how to prevent accidents and injuries, which we’ll tell you all about below.

Are jet skis dangerous? They can be!

Are jet skis dangerous? They can be!

Preventing Jet Ski Injuries

Even if you’re a very experienced rider, you need to be very concerned about safety. There are a number of common factors that can contribute to or cause a serious jet ski accident, which are listed below:

  • Inexperienced driver
  • Distracted driver
  • Going too fast
  • Mechanical problems
  • Lack of jet ski safety equipment
  • Other vessels close by operating unsafely
  • Dangerous weather and/or conditions on the water
  • Operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Predictably, operator error is the cause of most jet ski accidents. Many PWCs are in the 230-310 HP range, which means they can speed along at 65-67 mph.

When you’re going this fast, things can happen in an instant. In addition, jet skis have amazing acceleration and often no brakes at all, to the surprise of many, especially beginners.

How to Avoid a PWC Accident

Select Your Jet Ski Carefully

This is especially important for first time riders, who need to select the best jet ski for beginners. Since the performances of PWCs vary so widely, it’s vital that you research all options before making a purchase.

Learn Everything There is to Know About Your Jet Ski

Once you’ve bought your jet ski, you need to know your watercraft inside and out. The first thing you need to learn is how a jet ski works, which you can research here. Once you’ve finished reading this article, you should thoroughly read your owner’s manual.

Take the Safety Course to Get Your Jet Ski License

Even if a license is not required in your state, you will want your jet ski license. Once you take the course, you, your passengers and others will be a lot safer out on the water. Being licensed makes for a more stress-free and less expensive riding experience!

Learn & Respect All the rules

Each state has their own set of laws, plus there are local rules and regulations that must be followed as well. There should be a sign near the boat ramp where these are all spelled out. So, don’t forget to read all the rules before you set out. The last thing you want is to break the rules and cause jet ski injuries.

Beginners Need to Gain Some Experience

You can get the experience you need at one of the local jet ski rental shops. You should also check out our guide, which discusses some very important rental tips and FAQs.

Regular Maintenance

To ensure your safety, it is important that you regularly service your jet ski. The owner’s manual will explain important annual services, including regular cleaning and proper winterization. If your jet ski breaks down, you need to know how to safely tow it back to the marina without causing any engine damage.

Pre-Ride Checklist

You should religiously go through the pre-ride checklist before launching, especially on your very first ride. Most jet ski explosions could have been prevented had the operator taken the time to go through the pre-ride checklist!

Safety First

The primary cause of jet ski injuries is operator error. This is why it’s so important to always be careful when riding. Drive at a reasonable speed, avoid doing tricks and ride at a safe distance from other vessels.

Here are some tips to keep you and others safe:

  • Wear Life Jackets & Have Safety Equipment Onboard: Everyone riding should wear a life jacket at the very least. You could also wear shoes, goggles, gloves and maybe a helmet for maximum protection. Furthermore, you should have all the necessary safety equipment onboard.
  • Never Drink & Ride: Just like with auto accidents, so many jet ski accidents could have been prevented if one or more riders had not been drinking. Do not drink or use drugs when you’re jet skiing. Are jet skis dangerous? Yes, if you are drinking!
  • Don’t Go Out in Bad Weather: Don’t forget to check the weather report before going out and keep looking up at the sky. Do not ride when it’s dark. Aside from being illegal, it’s very dangerous!
  • Be Safe When Doing Watersports: Make sure you have the right equipment, follow therules and have everything prepared if you plan on trying any jet ski tow sports.
  • Review the Pre-Ride Checklist: It bears repeating, you need to follow every step of your pre-ride checklist. Most importantly, remove the seat so you can smell for gas vapors because these can cause an explosion! The checklist is different for each model, so look in your owner’s manual so that you know the proper steps to take for your model.
  • Obtain Insurance: Although having insurance cannot prevent you from an accident, it’s important to have your jet ski insured. If you should have an accident, having insurance coverage could provide a great deal of help

Also, don’t forget to read our detailed guide on how to avoid jet ski accidents!

Wave jumping with a jet ski can be dangerous

Wave jumping with a jet ski can be dangerous

Most Commonly Occurring Jet Ski Injuries

Even if you take all the precautions listed above, there will always be some risks of an accident. Therefore, you should know which injuries are typical of a jet ski accident.

Jet ski riders are far more exposed than people on other types of boats, and unfortunately, they are more likely to be going much faster. So, jet ski injuries tend to be quite severe.

Certain types of injuries are more prevalent among jet ski accident victims. These include traumatic brain injuries, as well as injuries to the neck and spinal cord. If a jet ski collides with another vessel, something submerged in the water or suddenly goes aground, those riding can easily be thrown off the jet ski.

When you crash into something at high speeds, you can end up with broken bones and/or brain damage. If your body hits the surface of the water hard enough you can get a concussion and/or serious whiplash.

Passengers who get thrown off a jet ski often get pinned by other vessels, causing severe limb injuries. After a jet ski wreck there are a lot of exposed electronics and engine parts, which can burn or electrocute the people involved.

Obviously, there are various possible jet ski injuries depending on the type of accident. However, the most common fall into three main categories:

  • Skin injuries
  • Skeletal injuries
  • Neurological injuries

Skin Injuries

Of the three, skin injuries are the least serious. They are typically superficial and cosmetic in nature, maybe some bruising and a little bleeding from wounds. Skin injuries from a jet ski accident can by caused by the rider hitting the water at low speed, the rider hitting the jet ski itself, or another person.

Types of jet ski skin injuries:

  • Soreness
  • Bruising
  • Impact marks
  • Scrapes
  • Contusions
  • Cuts
  • Small puncture wounds

Skeletal Injuries

Jet ski skeletal injuries are a bit more serious than skin injuries from jet ski accidents because they involve bones. Broken bones take a lot more time to mend and you have to be very careful about making the injury worse or creating more problems. Because jet skis often go so fast, they can potentially be far more dangerous than other PWCs. At such high speeds the force of any impact can break, fracture and/or even shatter bones. Bones in the hands and feet are the ones that most often get broken in jet ski accidents.

Types of jet ski skeletal injuries:

  • Sprains
  • Broken bones
  • Fractured bones
  • Shattered bones
Jet ski injuries #2: Skeletal injuries

Jet ski injuries #2: Skeletal injuries

Neurological Injuries

The most serious types of jet ski injuries involve the nervous system, so they’re neurological in nature or neuroskeletal. These injuries result from an extremely strong force of impact that disrupts the nervous system. This could be a head injury, neck or spinal cord injury or all three. The effects could run the gamut from limited mobility to death, with degrees of paralysis and diminished neurological functioning in between.

Types of jet ski neurological injuries:

  • Whiplash
  • Nerve damage
  • Broken neck
  • Severed spinal cord
  • Brain damage

Another item of concern with jet skis is the water propulsion system. When riders fall off or are thrown from a jet ski, the jet propulsion system is so forceful that the water from it can cause major internal and/or orifice damage.

The problem is that the warnings of the risks of riding on jet skis are not emphasized enough, nor are the types of accidents that happen or the resulting injuries warned about enough. There needs to be a lot more instruction given to renters and new owners about these risks and the safety precautions that need to be taken.

Conclusion – Are jet skis dangerous?

As you know now, jet skis can be dangerous when being operated by someone with little or no experience or someone irresponsible and reckless.

Before launching it is very important that you have a good understanding of how a jet ski works, know how to correctly operate it and that you gain a little experience with an instructor or tour guide.

Along with your life jacket, you should also wear shoes, goggles, gloves and perhaps a helmet for your safety. You also need to have onboard all the legally required safety equipment.

With the knowledge you’ll gain from taking the safety course for your jet ski license, all the necessary safety gear and a cautious riding style you can lower your risks of an accident and jet ski injuries.

If you’re still asking, “Are jet skis dangerous?” you should go to your local rental shop and test one out. Many of these rental shops have special riding areas for beginners. This is a specified area on the water where you can safely ride under the supervision of an instructor.

Another way to start out safely would be to book a guided jet ski tour. With this, an expert guide would ride with you the entire time.

We hope that you found our compilation of the risks of jet ski riding and the types of jet ski injuries that can result from accidents helpful.

Ride safely!


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