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Jet-Ski Joyriding a Dangerous Game

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RALEIGH — On hot summer days you can practically hear the jet skis slicing through the water. They're fast and fun. But they can also be dangerous. That's why some people say it's time to crack down on jet-ski joyriders.

If you aren't careful, a fun jet ski ride can turn into a dangerous one.

Jet skis can can reach speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. In 1997, more than 33 percent of all boating-related accidents involved personal watercraft. The two most common causes were speed and improper operation. And seven percent of those injured were 14 or younger.

"They are kin to a vehicle on water. Actually they can be pretty deadly," says Capt. David Price of the Bayleaf Fire Department.

But unlike cars, you don't have to have a license, go through training or be a certain age to operate this popular watercraft.

"We have had more sales. Summer is in early this year, it adds to the potential for accidents," says Chuck Elgin of Wake Underwater Rescue.

Chief Chuck Elgin and Capt. David Price cover the Falls Lake area. They see lots of accidents. People try to jump wakes, fall off and get hurt. Or they don't pay attention, and speed their jet skis right into boats, or people.

"You need to maintain a minimum or maximum distance between the other boaters that are out there. Falls Lake gets very crowded and you need to make sure your not in somebody else's way," Price said.

At this point there are not many regulations for jet skiers.

"I am for mandatory licenses, or some type of boater education," says jetskier Steve Ferrone. "At least be 16 or have a driver's license to operate them. Because there are no traffic lines on the water."

Until there are tougher regulations, it's up to the drivers to follow their own safety rules. Don't drink, watch your speed, and make sure that you know how to operate the water craft. Following those simple steps could make your trip to the waterway fun and injury-free.


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