Perhaps you've always wanted a personal watercraft (PWC), and now you've got one. Now what? If you plan on taking your new toy out and testing its limits on your favorite lake, river, or ocean, there are some basics for keeping you and your passengers safe.

Personal Watercrafts can be fast, and injuries may occur while operating one.  In 2020, the Coast Guard reported 5,265 accidents involving 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries that are a result of recreational boating accidents.[1]  According to the Coast Guard’s 2020 report, “There is evidence that boating activity rose significantly during the pandemic, from reports of increased boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims, and calls for towing assistance.” [2]

Rules and regulations vary from state to state. Certain states will require boating education or special training to use a PWC, and regulations may be changed over time. For example, as of January 1, 2022, California boaters are now required to carry the California boating card if they are 45 years of age or younger.[3] Depending on your state there could also be age limitations that may require younger operators to take boating education courses to be able to operate the watercraft.[4]

Here are some important safety tips to consider before hitting the waves.

  1. Anyone can crash, review safety rules before takeoff – It does not matter if you are a newbie rider or a person with 10 years riding experience. It is always a great idea to review the personal watercraft riding rules before each ride. This is applicable for other people who will be riding the watercraft as well. Often, the owner of the craft is aware of the riding rules before takeoff, but additional passengers or friends and family that you’ve given permission to may not be as familiar.
  2. Personal Floatation Devices save lives: Personal floatation devices can help save lives.  In 2020, 86% of individuals who drowned while using a personal watercraft failed to wear a personal floatation device.[5]
  3. Smaller passengers belong on the back - Do not let smaller riders like children ride in front of the driver. If a passenger is too small to ride on the back of the watercraft and hang on to you, this means they are too small to be on the watercraft altogether. Plus, if you have a collision, your body weight could push them against the handlebars, potentially injuring them.
  4. Take a course: Many injuries are attributed to careless operation. Personal watercraft operation can be very different than boating, particularly in performance and steering. If you or your companion is a beginner, a PWC or boating safety course, is highly recommended.
  5. Check the weather before heading out – It can prove to be a lifesaving maneuver to check the weather before venturing out farther on a watercraft. However, if you forget to watch the weather report beforehand, pay very close attention to the clouds. If you see clouds moving in and getting dark quickly or abrupt changes in the wind speed, don’t take any chances and head back to shore.
  6. Be observant – Always operate at safe speeds especially if you are not in the “open water,” but in a more populated area. If you see another boat, stay clear from it to avoid a collision. Respect buoys too; they were put there for a reason.
  7. BWI (boating while intoxicated) can be just as bad as DWI – Never mix alcohol and water crafting. The two are like oil and water- they don’t mix. Driving a personal watercraft sober takes enough concentration to stay safe as it is. If you mix alcohol into the equation, you could seriously injure another person or yourself. One crazy evening of water crafting and drinking could land you in jail, court, or end in fatality.
  8. At least know how to “doggie paddle.” – Hey, you don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to ride a personal watercraft, but you should at least be able to stay above the water and be comfortable in it. If you are serious about water crafting and you plan to do it all year round, swimming lessons are worth considering. Make sure you know how to swim just in case you end up needing to while out on the water.
  9. Reboarding a personal watercraft – Personal watercrafts are designed to turn over. Before heading out on the water check your manual to see how the manufacturers suggest turning the watercraft back over.


Already have insurance for your watercraft and looking to save? Here's some ways to save on boat insurance that can apply to watercrafts as well

Get Personal Watercraft insurance quotes by calling 855-244-7671.