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Training Jet Boaters

Sun., Oct. 5, 1997

Personal watercraft

Known most commonly by the brand name used by just one manufacturer, Kawasaki’s Jet Ski, they are the fastest-selling watercraft in the country, with more than 200,000 sold this year and about 1 million in use.

Critics point to 58 deaths in more than 4,000 accidents in 1996, down from 68 deaths in 1995.

People responsible for accidents typically are age 30 and under and have rented or borrowed the craft, said Capt. Tony Stimatz, chief of the Coast Guard’s boating safety office in Washington.

Most of the accidents are caused by poor judgment, inexperience and immaturity, Stimatz said.

“If there are problems, they aren’t as bad as perceived. Surely training and education can address most of them,” Stimatz said.

The Coast Guard is developing standards for training operators and is seeking public comment on whether to require training, Stimatz said. The Coast Guard believes watercraft operators and all other boaters should take a boating safety course, but mandating such programs is difficult, he said.

“There is tremendous resistance to regulation on water,” he said.

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