Personal watercraft (PWC) such as Jet Ski, Wave Runner, and Sea-Doo are half boat, half motorcycle and 100% fun. As use of these PWC continues to grow, a lack of operational knowledge and safety rules can spell disaster. Don’t let an accident strand you on shore. Keep the fun going by following these safety rules, and ensure your PWC is protected with the right insurance coverage.
Laws & Regulations
It is important to remember that Personal Watercraft (PWC) are subject to the state’s boating laws and regulations. Here are some of the important rules for personal watercraft usage that are common among most states.
- Children under the age of 13 are prohibited from operating a PWC unless accompanied on board by a person at least 18 years of age.
- A boater certificate and photo ID is required for operators between 13-17 years of age. (A person is exempt from the mandatory boater education requirements if they are at least 18 years of age.)
- Each person riding on or towed by a PWC must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
- It is illegal to:
- Operate a PWC between sunset and sunrise.
- Operate a PWC within 50 feet of the shoreline, structures, swimmers, or other watercraft unless at head speed (also known as “no-wake speed”).
- Jump the wake of another watercraft recklessly or unnecessarily close.
- All equipment requirements for regular motorboats also apply to PWC, including a sound-producing device and fire extinguisher. PWC are prohibited on the water after sunset, and so are not required to display navigation lights.
- PWC being used to tow someone must be rated for at least three people – the operator, the observer and the person in tow.
- An emergency engine cutoff lanyard must be attached to the operator.
- Registration numbers, letters and validation decals must be properly displayed.
- Vessel registration should be on board at all times.
- Thoroughly read the PWC operators manual
- Ensure your PWC is functioning properly before riding
- Take a PWC safety course
- Wear a life jacket approved for PWC use
- Know and follow the laws
- Don’t ride after consuming drugs or alcohol
- Give large vessels, sailboats and paddle craft priority
- Steer to the right and pass like cars when passing another craft
- To overtake another craft, pass to either side staying clear
- Only carry the recommended number of passengers
Many people agree that PWC are a fun and exciting way to enjoy the summer season. However, statistics show that the use of these recreational vehicles lead to many injuries each year. According to the Coast Guard, PWCs have a higher rate of collisions than any other type of boat. Due to this risk of injury, anyone using a PWC should acquire PWC insurance before they hit the water.
PWC are not usually covered by a homeowner or vehicle insurance policy. Therefore, owners will need to purchase a special insurance policy. This coverage should include personal and third-party injury, property damage, passenger liability, medical costs, and theft. Owners of a PWC do have the option for liability only coverage, which would only cover another person in the event of an accident or injury.
Eligibility and costs for watercraft insurance is based on a number of factors that can include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- The operator and owner must be over 16 years old and hold a valid driver’s license.
- There must be no previous major driving violations for a specified number of years.
- There must not be a history of repeat claims.
Personal watercrafts are a great source for summer fun and excitement. Regrettably, many people think they are covered under their homeowner’s policy until there is an accident.
Before you hit the water, talk to one of our experienced agents to ensure you get the right coverage.