NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


April 29, 1999

Washington, D.C. - National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Jim Hall has praised efforts by the United States Coast Guard and the personal watercraft (PWC) industry to adopt a voluntary initiative to limit speed on production model PWCs.

Last year, the NTSB's safety study, Personal Watercraft Safety, recognized that as with most recreational boats, the speed and performance of PWC have increased over the years. New faster models can reach nearly 70 mph in a stock configuration. In the Board's study, accidents caused by speed, better defined as inappropriate speed for the conditions, were attributed to 20 percent of the operators involved in the study's accidents.

"My family and I have always enjoyed using the Tennessee Valley Authority lakes," Hall said. "Our tranquil and serene waterways should not be allowed to be used as interstate highways by fast-moving PWCs. This is a positive step in the right direction."

Recommendations to the Coast Guard and the industry contained in the Board's 1998 study focused on three main issues:

Protecting PWC riders from injury: The Safety Board asked the manufacturers of PWC (Kawasaki, Yamaha, Polaris, Bombardier, and Arctic Cat/Tiger Shark) to evaluate PWC designs to improve operator control and to help prevent personal injuries. These improvements would include improved off-throttle steering, braking, padded handlebars, and specific operator equipment requirements such as personal flotation devices and helmets.

Improving operator experience and training: As PWC speeds increase, it becomes increasingly important that PWC operators demonstrate a knowledge of safe boating rules and skills because the time available to react decreases. For example, operators of two PWC traveling at 40 mph on a head-on course would only have 1.3 seconds to see the other vessel, decide which vessel needs to comply with the rules of the road, determine the risk of collision, and execute a response to alter its course or stop.

Developing comprehensive safety standards specific to the safety risks of PWCs: The Safety Board believes that comprehensive standards, specific to the safety risks of PWC, need to be developed. These standards would include design changes addressing issues such as off-throttle steering and braking.

The Board's safety study is available on its web site under Publications: http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/publictn.htm

NTSB Media Contact:
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.