Personal watercraft injuries involving children

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 29th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Thousands of kids take to the water each summer on jet-powered personal watercraft. But lurking below the surface are disturbing statistics about accidents involving children…. and the extent of their injuries.

Researchers at the University of Florida say personal watercraft accidents cause far greater injury to children than small motorboat mishaps.

Doctors examined data from emergency medical crews and visits to a Florida emergency room between 1992 and 2000. Children in personal watercraft accidents sustained more closed-head injuries and trauma to the chest and abdomen than kids involved in a boating crash.

The extreme maneuverability of personal watercraft tempts operators to make sudden turns or ride in circles, which can create unexpected hazards for others or leave operators disoriented. Doctors say riders are usually ejected from a personal watercraft during a collision, and they’re also more likely to then hit the obstacle that caused the crash.

Personal watercraft, which can reach speeds of sixty-five miles-per-hour, leave riders completely unprotected in a crash. In contrast, boaters are somewhat shielded by the vessel’s sides and the bow.

UF researchers found that the average hospital stay is longer after a personal watercraft crash. Children also were more likely to require surgery than those injured in a boating spill.

Researchers suggest personal watercraft should be regulated like other motor vehicles, such as motorcycles. The legal age for operating small watercraft currently varies from state to state.

The bottomline, say experts?

Adult supervision and lifejacket use are key to safety on the water.