Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Personal Watercraft Hazards

Personal water hazards Crowded waterways, top speeds and inexperienced riders can turn summertime fun into tragedy. By SUSAN ASCHOFF, Times Staff Writer Published June 7, 2005 The generic name for Jet Skis and WaveRunners and Sea-Doos - those zippy vessels that are to water as motorcycles are to dirt trails - is personal watercraft, or PWC. They're not necessarily more dangerous to operate than a speedboat, but Tampa Bay's crowded waterways increase the risk. Pinellas County is No. 1 in Florida for PWC accidents. Two weeks ago, two people died when a Sea-Doo and powerboat collided in Boca Ciega Bay near John's Pass. Another man was seriously injured a week later when two WaveRunners collided off Dunedin Causeway. Last July, a father and his 8-year-old daughter died after their Jet Ski and a pontoon boat collided on the Homosassa River in Citrus County. "It's the high concentration of watercraft. We call the south end of Courtney Campbell Parkway "Jet Ski beach,' " says Lt. Roger Young. He has worked on accident investigations for a decade with the Tampa office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Inexperience with how PWCs operate can prove lethal. "You have a party," Young says, "and everybody wants to ride." When a driver cuts power to slow down - there are no brakes - he or she loses steering. And because PWCs are fast, reaching speeds up to 70 mph, drivers tend to have "tunnel vision," says Young, unaware of other craft to the side or rear. With summer in full swing and tourists en route, here are some 2004 boating statistics to consider before launching in 2005: - Florida ranks No. 1 in the United States in number of boat, PWC and other vessel fatalities. - Pinellas County is No. 1 in Florida, with seven. - Pinellas County is No. 1 for PWC accidents, 26, with one fatality. - When combined, Pinellas, Monroe, Okaloosa, Orange and Miami-Dade counties account for half of all PWC accidents in the state. - In Florida, PWCs make up 11 percent of registered vessels but are involved in 37 percent of reported accidents. - Rental PWCs were involved in 43 percent of PWC accidents though they constitute only 2 to 3 percent of all registered PWCs. Constant use is mostly to blame. - Palm Beach County reported the highest property losses at $8,693,289, but that figure includes an $8-million yacht destroyed by fire. The next highest was Miami-Dade at $1,195,375. - 982,907 commercial and recreational vessels are registered in Florida, a new record. And one in 10 is a PWC. - The most likely person to be operating a vessel involved in an accident in Florida is a male between ages 22 and 50 who has 100 hours or more of experience but no formal instruction. - The most likely time to be involved in a boating accident is between noon and 6 p.m. - The most likely months for an accident are March, April, May, June and July. - The most likely boating activity when the accident occurs is cruising. - Almost 21/2 times as many people die from falling overboard than from capsizing or collision. - The leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents is drowning, yet three-fourths of the people who died reportedly could swim. - Fewer than one-fourth of those in boating accidents were wearing life jackets. - Arrests for boating under the influence were up 17 percent over 2003. -- SOURCE: All figures are from 2004, the most recent full year available, and from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, www.myfwc.com [Last modified June 6, 2005, 13:43:04] http://www.sptimes.com/2005/06/07/Floridian/Personal_water_hazards.shtml

No comments: