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How to Safely Drive a Jet Ski

When it comes to having fun on the water, it’s hard to beat a jaunt around one of Oklahoma’s many lakes on a jet ski. Whether they’re one, two, or three-seaters, jet skis are much faster and more agile than even the fastest speed boats, making them one of the most exhilarating recreational vehicles you can own or ride.

Jet skis’ speed and maneuverability comes with a significant downside: a higher risk of accidents and injuries. Driving a boat isn’t something to take lightly, and riding a jet ski is even more demanding from a safety and awareness standpoint. However, many people treat jet skis like toys and go zipping off without a care in the world, and that puts themselves, their passengers, and other boaters in danger.

If you own a jet ski or are planning on renting one this summer, these tips can help you stay safe on the water.

Ensure Everyone Onboard Wears a Life Jacket

There’s a much greater risk of being thrown off of a jet ski than of being thrown off of a boat. When you’re riding a jet ski, it’s essential that you and all of your passengers wear properly-fitted life jackets. Passengers can be thrown from jet skis and end up dozens or hundreds of feet away from them before drivers are able to turn around and pick them up. Without a life jacket on, weak swimmers can drown in that short timeframe.

Don’t Ride After Drinking

Just as you wouldn’t drive a car or motorcycle after drinking, you also shouldn’t drive a boat or jet ski after drinking. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair your ability to drive a jet ski safely and responsibly. Many jet ski accidents occur because drivers are intoxicated, and when people ride jet skis after drinking, they put themselves, their passengers, and other boaters and swimmers at risk.

Attach the “Kill Switch” Key to a Lanyard on Your Life Jacket

Drivers getting thrown off jet skis is less common than passengers, but it can and does happen. Thankfully, jet skis have “kill switches” than turn them off when their keys are pulled from their ignitions. By attaching your jet ski’s kill switch to your life jacket via lanyard or cable, it will immediately stop as soon as the key is pulled from the ignition, leaving you free to swim to it if you get thrown off.

Learn the Jet Ski’s Handling and Acceleration

If you’re riding a jet ski for the first time, or are simply riding a different jet ski than the one you’re used to, it’s important to go slow in the beginning to learn how it handles. Different jet skis have different acceleration and turning capabilities, and acclimating to the unique characteristic of the jet ski you’re driving can help you stay safe on the water.

Maintain a Safe but Steady Speed

When driven at very slow speeds, jet skis can take on water, get tangled up in aquatic plants, and even tip over. While you don’t need to ride your jet ski at full throttle (and typically shouldn’t), you should maintain a steady speed while you’re out on the open water. Not only does this help you keep pace with other watercraft and avoid a collision, but it makes the jet ski easier to control and less likely to stall or flip.

Know the Right-of-Way Rules for Oklahoma’s Waterways

When driving a jet ski, you must follow Oklahoma’s rules for observing right-of-way on the water. In the words of the Oklahoma Department of Safety, “it is the duty of every vessel operator to take substantial and early action to avoid a collision.”

  • Stand-on Vessel: The vessel that should maintain its course and speed.
  • Give-way Vessel: The vessel that must take early and substantial action to avoid collision by stopping, slowing down or changing course.

See the Oklahoma Department of Safety website for full details on following right-of-way, and when you are the “stand-on” vs the “give-way” vessel.

Be on the Lookout for “No Wake” Zones

When approaching docks, marinas, swimming areas, sloughs, and other secluded or public areas of the water, you’ll need to reduce your speed to avoid creating a wake. Not only does this protect the people in those areas, but it also reduces your risk of an accident due to hitting other watercraft, swimmers, or submerged rocks and plants.

Jet Ski or Boating Accident that Wasn’t Your Fault? We Want to Help.

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we love spending summers on Oklahoma’s many bodies of water. There’s nothing like a summer day on the lake with friends and family, but all it takes is one person’s negligence to cause a devastating injury that can change a person’s life forever.

If you or someone you love is injured in an accident on the water, our Oklahoma boating accident lawyers want to help you get the compensation you’re owed.

 Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll work hard to get you maximum compensation.