Jet skis are very fun, very fast and very dangerous. They can quickly reach speeds of 60 mph or more, as fast as a car on the highway, but they don’t have the same protections. According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s study, the vast majority of PWC operators involved in accidents were between the ages of 12 and 21.
Many of these operators viewed the high-performance vessel as a toy, but PWC safety is nothing to take lightly. People need to realize that a 13-year-old is not equipped to handle a 135-horsepower vessel traveling at great speeds. “It can be tempting to show off and push your jet ski to its limits. While doing ‘donuts’ and going at full speed may be fun, these reckless maneuvers pose a major risk to yourself and other boaters on the water,” Brad says.
Part of the danger a jet ski poses is that they don’t have brakes but instead require water to be reversed to slow the boat. They can take up to 300 feet to stop if you’re traveling at 60 mph or faster, which is a long enough distance for a crash to easily occur. Another problematic factor is that there is no rudder on a PWC, and it’s impossible to steer without the throttle. With no off-throttle steering, operators who release the throttle in hopes of slowing down actually make it more likely that they’ll get into an accident because they are unable to steer.
Brad says, “It’s important to note that good training and practice can make all the difference on a jet ski. If you plan to go out on a personal watercraft, consider taking lessons or staying at slower speeds until you have the hang of stopping and steering with this awkward method. You should also follow all of the regular boating safety rules and guidelines as well.”
Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Water Safety FAQs
1. Who must take boater education?
Anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 and intends to operate any vessel over 15 horsepower and more than 14 feet in length, including all personal watercraft.
2. What does the course cost?
Fees start at $20 for a basic course.
3. Who must be certified to operate a vessel alone?
In Texas a person cannot operate a windblown vessel more than 14 feet in length, a motorboat with more than 15 horsepower, or personal watercraft unless he/she:
- was born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 and has passed a boater education class or equivalency examination prescribed by the department.
- is 18 years of age and can lawfully operate the motorboat and is on board the motorboat when underway.
- is at least 13 years of age and have successfully completed a boater education course approved by the Department.
4. Who can operate a PWC?
NOTE: Children under 13 are specifically prohibited from operating a PWC unless accompanied on board by a person at least 18 years of age. To operate a PWC, the operator must meet one of the following:
- Born on or after September 1, 1993 and passed a boater education class or equivalency examination prescribed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, or
- Born before September 1, 1993, or,
- Persons requiring boater education who have not competed it must be accompanied by a person 18 years of age (who can legally operate) or older, or
- At least 13 years of age and have passed a boater education course or equivalency examination prescribed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
5. Is there a minimum operator age?
To operate a vessel alone in Texas, a boater must be 13 years of age to operate a vessel of more than 15 horsepower; or windblown vessel more than 14 feet in length.
6. What forms of identification does a person have to carry on board?
Persons subject to this law must have a picture identification card and a boater certification card issued by the department in their possession.
7. Is there another way a person can get certified, other than taking an approved classroom course?
Online courses are available
8. Can I be required to take a boater education course?
Courts have the authority to require a boater education course for violators of certain offenses.
9. May I have an open container on a boat?
Open containers are legal, but operators of boats are subject to boating while intoxicated laws, similar to driving a car. Operators or passengers may also be subject to public intoxication laws. Drinking and boating is DANGEROUS and the cause of most boating fatalities.
At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.
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