The 5 Most Dangerous Things You Should Never Do on a Jet Ski

Cruising on the water on a jet ski allows you to enjoy fun and exciting moments outdoors, and it’s less expensive and easier to use than a recreational boat. That makes personal watercraft great for anyone on a beach vacation or living near a body of water. However, proceed with caution because a jet ski can be dangerous as any vehicle.

Jet ski accident statistics

A woman rides a green Kawasaki Jet Ski on the East River in July 2020 in New York City
A woman rides a Kawasaki Jet Ski on the East River in July 2020 in New York City | Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Jet skis are responsible for hundreds of watersports deaths and accidents annually. The causes include the lack of surrounding protective shell that a boat provides, operator inexperience or inattention, riding at fast speeds, and lack of training. 

According to a 2021 National Safe Boating Council fact sheet, the top five primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents are alcohol, operator inattention, excessive speed, improper outlook, and operator inexperience. Additionally, the fact sheet shows the Coast Guard reported 4,168 accidents involving approximately $55 million in property damage, 613 deaths, and 2,559 injuries resulting from personal watercraft accidents in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available.

That fatality rate represents 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered vessels and is a 1.9% decrease in 2018’s rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. 

5 of the most dangerous things you should never do on a jet ski

Get caught in a storm

One of the scariest situations on open water is the weather. So checking the forecast before heading out on a jet ski is advisable. Tune in to the National Weather Service to get current warnings for your location. Also, understand that although you can see most storms coming, some pop up suddenly and without warning.

Keeping your eyes on the horizon is also a wise idea, and if you see dark, ugly clouds, head back to shore. The reason is that storms can cause large waves and choppy water, making riding difficult, and they can also bring life-threatening lightning.

Flip or fall off


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Overturning while riding a jet ski is common, and most models have a sticker on the back showing you what to do when they capsize. You can avoid flipping a jet ski by watching out for waves, avoiding abrupt movements, and keeping your speed down. You should also be mindful of the terrain around you and avoid riding a jet ski at top speed if you don’t want to fall off. 

Although controlling the circumstances surrounding an accident may prove challenging, you can consider falling correctly, slowing down, wearing protective gear, and avoiding choppy and shallow water to lessen the damage of a fall.

Break the law

Interestingly, there are just as many safety laws on the water as there are on land. Obeying these rules is critical to ensuring a safe and peaceful jet ski ride free of incidents. Note that such laws focus on protecting you and others. The basic ones include getting necessary licensing, avoiding speeding in no-wake zones, observing legal places and times to ride, avoiding drinking and riding, and wearing the necessary safety gear.

Underestimate how long it takes to stop the jet ski

First, understand that personal watercraft do not stop on a dime. Not understanding how long it takes to stop your ski can damage the machine and injury you and others. So practicing stopping in a wide-open area where you won’t endanger others and yourself is advisable if you’re new to jet skiing. That means knowing how quickly you can go from open throttle to a dead stop will take experience, AquaSportsPlanet explains.

Ride too close to or cut off other watercraft

There’s always the chance of colliding with other watercraft while riding a jet ski if others are nearby. Guidelines for water vessels are similar to road rules, and knowing these rules is your responsibility. According to the law firm Hofmann & Schweitzer, the best option is to stay away from other vessels as much as possible and remember that sailboats always have the right of way.