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Video: Georgia PWC Requirements

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Video Transcript
Rob

Just so that you can clear this up for me and for everybody, there are a lot of types of life jackets out there.

Rob holds up an inflatable life jacket.

Rob

This is one of them. Obviously it looks a lot different than that one.

He points to the wearable life jacket the safety officer is holding.

Sergeant Mike Barr

It is.

Rob

What kind do you need when you ride a personal watercraft or jet ski?

Sergeant Barr

You need a wearable life jacket, U.S. Coast Guard–approved. They’re designated by weight and chest size, and it’s on the interior of the life jacket that you can locate one that’ll be the proper size. In addition to that, it needs to be properly fitted on your person. Unbuckling the life jacket while you’re riding is only going to cause a problem when you hit the water. It’s going to come off of your person. So you need to have that properly buckled. The inflatable type that you’re holding is a hybrid type of life jacket—very comfortable to wear for a normal boater. But for a personal watercraft operator or a passenger, it doesn’t operate well because of the impact of the water if you come off of the personal watercraft, and it takes time to inflate. It is not a legal life jacket for a personal watercraft operator or passenger.

Rob

Now, there are probably some other rules that are specific to personal watercraft. Could you run through them real quick for us?

Sergeant Barr

Sure. They must be operated between sunrise and sunset—no sunset to sunrise. There’s no navigational lights on them, and they’re not authorized to be operated after sunset. In addition to that, the person must have a circling device or a lanyard attached from him to the safety ignition switch that will remove that switch and turn the motor off should he fall off. In addition to that, if you’re skiing, there’s some additional requirements: that you have an observer on board to make sure that they have their eyes on the skier and the operator has his eyes in front of the boat.

PWC Requirements

In addition to adhering to all boating laws, PWC operators have requirements specific to their vessel.

Lanyard connecting the safety switch to the operator's wrist
  • Each person riding on a PWC must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD that is properly fitted and fastened.
  • PWC must be equipped with a fully operational self-circling device or a lanyard-type engine cut-off switch. If a safety switch is used, the lanyard must be attached to the operator's person, clothing, or PFD.
  • PWC may not be operated between sunset and sunrise.

Video: Georgia Engine Cut-Off Switch

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Video Transcript
Rob

So most of the boating world knows that PWCs can be really fun, right?

Sergeant Mike Burgamy

Absolutely.

Rob

But there is a safe way and a not-safe way to operate a PWC. Now, do you talk to a lot of people about ignition safety switches? What do you tell them when you confront them?

Sergeant Burgamy

Well, basically, we tell them, number one, the law requires you to have it on the vessel and attached to the person if it’s a personal watercraft. Number two is, the vessel’s not going to work unless the ignition safety switch is attached. It’s a failsafe mechanism to help the vessel work and to cut it off if it’s released.

Rob

Can you think of an injury that could have been prevented if somebody had worn an ignition safety switch?

Sergeant Burgamy

Sure, yeah, I can. I had a female one time who was riding a personal watercraft without wearing the safety switch. She was cutting up on it, having fun like they’re designed to have. But she hit a wave—it threw her off to the side. The watercraft circled back around and came across real close to her hair. She had long hair. It got up underneath and in the impeller. So she actually had to pull her hair out to escape from underneath the vessel.

Rob

Well, it’s a good thing she got out. So, the idea is basically, you have to have it, you know, plugged in, but then you also have to make sure it’s attached to your body so when you fall off, it cuts the engine off.

Sergeant Burgamy

That’s correct, yeah.