Without a doubt, riding a personal watercraft is one of the most thrilling experiences on Table Rock Lake, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. While personal watercraft accidents do not account for a greater percentage of accidents on the lake than other watercraft, they are more likely to cause greater injury or be fatal. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow to ensure your safety:
1. Wear a fitted, Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Check the label to make sure the life jacket is the right fit for you weight and size. It’s also best to try your life jacket out in shallow water first before going out on your jet ski.
2. Use your personal watercraft’s safety precautions. Most personal watercraft come equipped with a lanyard that goes around your wrist and attaches to a kill switch on the handle bars. When the driver goes overboard, this cord disengages causing the kill switch to stop the personal watercraft. This prevents the watercraft from continuing to run out of control and injuring someone else. It also keep the watercraft close to the thrown rider, alerting boats there is more than likely someone in the water close by and to watch out.
3. If you fall off your personal watercraft be on constant lookout for other boats, skiers, divers and other swimmers. It may be difficult, especially in choppy water. This is why it is advisable to keep a safe distance (50 feet or more) from other watercraft or the shoreline when riding a personal watercraft.
4. Do not use waves and wakes made by other boats as ramps. It is extremely easy, especially for less experienced riders, to lose control of the craft jumping waves/wakes. It is also a good way to collide with another watercraft, swimmer or skier.
5. Never operate a personal watercraft if you have been drinking alcohol or using drugs.
6. Do not operate a personal watercraft unless you are at least 14 years of age. If you were born after January 1, 1984, you must also have completed an approved boat safety course.
Table Rock Lake is full of fun and excitement. Make sure your water activities this summer stay safe, too!