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17 Jet Ski Safety and Etiquette Tips You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

If you have spent any time at Lake Hartwell, you have probably watched people riding around on jet skis through the waves. When properly used, it is hard to find anything more fun and exciting than zooming around on a jet ski. However, these vehicles can be dangerous (and even deadly) if the rules of jet ski safety are not followed. Whether you’re thinking of purchasing a jet ski or looking at jet ski rentals on Lake Hartwell, here’s everything you need to know about how to stay safe on a jet ski.

Couple using jet ski out in open waters

If you are wondering how to stay safe on a jet ski, you’ll be glad to know it’s easier than you may think. By following these simple, common-sense rules, you can enjoy the waters without being injured or hurting someone else.

Slow down. Yes, it’s fun to whip back and forth on your personal watercraft, but it’s also a lot easier to get hurt or cause injury to another if you are going faster. Most jet skis can hit top speeds of 40-50 mph. Slow down and cruise a bit at a lower speed, especially while you are still learning how to drive a jet ski.

Wear a life jacket, always. That means every single time, no matter what. If you hit the water hard enough while riding on a jet ski, you will pass out. Even if you are alert and awake, the waves left in the wake of the jet ski can be deadly.

Pre-teen wearing life jacket as part of jet ski safety.

Wear the safety lanyard (safety key). This brilliant device is worn around your neck and will cut off the engine if you fall from the watercraft.

Wear sunblock. You don’t want to ruin your lake vacation with a sunburn! Make sure you cover yourself with sunblock or sun protective clothing to prevent sunburn while you’re out on the lake.

Wear eye protection. Spray from cutting through the water can be quite strong—powerful enough to cause damage to your eyes. I highly recommend the polarized sun-filtering kind, so you can safely see even if the sun is bouncing off the water. Keep in mind that googles or glasses are a minimum—the ideal version is a helmet with built-in protection.

Pass with caution. Be wary when crossing the wake of another jet ski or a large boat, as it may block your view of another oncoming vehicle.

Carry a whistle. Have a whistle around your neck or wrist while riding a jet ski. In the event you are thrown off the vessel, you will be able to call for help without damaging your vocal cords.

Follow the age laws. In most states, including South Carolina and Georgia, you must be at least 16 years old to operate a jet ski on your own, or 12 years old with supervision from an adult.

Only operate jet skis during the day. It is much easier to see while there is sunlight out, which will not only allow you to find your course safer but will also prevent running into any hard-to-see objects out on the waters.

Do not consume alcohol before driving a jet ski. Save your victory toast until you are safely back on dry land and completely done riding the watercraft.

Keep up with maintenance. Just like a car or any other vehicle, a jet ski needs maintenance to keep it running properly. If you own the jet ski, make sure to keep up with all the maintenance. Even those who rent should ask to see the maintenance records of the vehicle they are renting.

Jet Ski Etiquette

Even if you obey every law above, to be truly safe (and just a generally good human) you need to follow and participate in jet ski etiquette. Here is what you need to know about being a polite and courteous jet ski driver.

Obey the rules of the road. Just as you do when driving in the United States, you need to hang to the right when another boat is coming towards you. 

Be a defensive driver. Again, just like traveling by car, the best offense is a defense. Make sure to pay close attention and always err on the side of caution when it comes to passing other boats.

Observe the right of way. Other boats have the right of way over jet skis. If you are about to cross paths with any other jet ski, the vehicle on the right has the right of way. However, this is where that defensive driving really starts to show up. 

Woman with sunglasses on jet ski - one of the most important ways to stay safe on the water.

Keep the vehicle quiet. Be cautious of how much noise your jet-ski is making, especially near residential areas early in the morning. 

Be observant. Stay on the lookout for swimmers, water loungers and every type watercraft. Before you get on your jet ski, do a scan and look for people who may be in your path then be extra cautious while traveling those areas. 

Don’t dirty the waters. This includes fuel spills, pollutants, and litter.  Now that you are aware of the basic etiquette and safety rules while operating a jet ski, make sure to put each one into practice and have fun.

Jet skiing: safety and etiquette rules to follow. Text overlaying images of people riding jet skis on lake hartwell
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