Great Lakes Watercraft Safety: Dangers of JetSkis and Other Watercraft for Kids and Families – Learning the Lesson of Usher’s Tragic Loss

Great Lakes Watercraft Safety: Dangers of JetSkis and Other Watercraft for Kids and Families – Learning the Lesson of Usher’s Tragic Loss

It’s the summer and lots of folk in Indiana and Illinois consider taking the family or traveling with friends to a short vacation on one of the Great Lakes. Which is a great idea, there’s lots of fun to be had – boating or JetSkiing on Lake Superior, for example (the world’s largest freshwater lake). And it sure is faster and cheaper than traveling to one of the coasts or offshore to a tropical island somewhere.  In today’s economy, it makes sense to vacation closer to home.

Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain Image - Tubing Behind JetSki

However, watersports bring with them their own set of issues and it’s a sad lesson that things like JetSkis can turn a fun sunny day into a lifetime tragedy. Consider the horrible situation right now facing Usher and his ex-wife as Usher’s stepson has just been declared brain dead after a JetSki accident on Georgia’s Lake Lanier.

Today, USAToday did a survey of the age and education requirements for people to operate watercraft: surprisingly, Michigan allows children as young as 12 to operate watercraft.  Like JetSkis.

Vacationing on the water may mean people with not a lot of experience are using big machines with lots of power.  And risk.  Add to that the possibility of folks drinking some alcoholic beverages during the day and things can become dangerous.

Being educated and aware of watercraft safety is very important.  There are state laws that require this, and each state is different.  For example, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommends all boaters, regardless of age, take a boating safety class, and has the following age limits for using various watercraft:

  • All motorboat and PWC operators must have a valid driver’s license to operate on all Indiana public waters.
  • Motorboat and PWC operators who are 15 years of age may operate said craft until they become a licensed driver only if they have successfully completed an IN DNR approved boater safety education program, are issued an Indiana ID card by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and have proof of completion in their possession during operation.
  • A person who has never been licensed by the BMV must also complete an INDNR approved boater safety education program and have on board an ID card issued by the BMV.
  • No one under 15 years of age may legally operate a motorboat greater than 10 horsepower or a PWC.
  • Residents of Indiana must have a valid driver’s license when operating on Indiana boundary waters. Non-residents do not need a driver’s license unless operating in an embayment, river or stream in Indiana.

Know the state law that applies to your fun spot – if you’re using a JetSki in Michigan, what does Michigan require?  And be smart.  If your child is small or tired, then maybe he doesn’t need one more trip on the JetSki.  Be careful out there.

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