When I was younger, I always had the impression that my PWC (personal watercraft) or jet ski couldn’t be used at night due to the age my cousins and I were rider at. As a result, we’d always head on home before nightfall or after dark.
We were riding around Florida at the time, and I still go back there to visit friends and family. Jet skiing is a big part of our lives, but we still get back before nightfall. It was only recently I was told it’s mainly down to the law. I decided to see what the exact legislation was and if can drive a jet ski at night, why or what you might need to know.
Can you jet ski at night? Yes, but it is very unlikely that it is legal in the state your riding in. Most US states won’t let you to ride jet skis at night at all, whereas some will let you ride a PWC in the dark depending on certain rules and regulations.
What are the rules about riding jet skis at night?
Due to my curiosity and love for getting out on the water, I decided to gather first-hand and professional information, rules, procedures and advice on driving jet ski at night as well as the dangers involved.
Find out if jet skiing is legal within your state or country. This is the number one and most paramount rule, every other rule rests on this.
In the majority of states, it will be completely prohibited.
I will quickly share some of the things to do in order to drive your jet ski at night if your state allows it, safety precautions to adhere to while jet skiing at night, the dangers attached, and a host of other things to be considered.
Things to know before jet skiing at night
There are some certain rules and procedure you should follow and some things you should put in place if you want to successfully drive your jet ski at night. Below are some basic and necessary rules.
The most importantly is checking in your state.
It’s unlikely you will be allowed to ride a jet ski once darkness starts to fall, as most US states have the following legal statement:
“Most states will say that it is illegal to operate 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. If your state or country’s law permits the driving of jet ski at night, then applying the following rule won’t be a challenge.”
If your state does allow night-time driving, here’s some safety advice.
- Install high intensity waterproof red-port light at the right helm of your personal watercraft.
- Install high intensity waterproof green-starboard light at the right helm of your personal watercraft.
- Have a white stern light and ensure it is well elevated. It is required that you have enough headlights to properly see all around you, and most importantly, what’s in front of you.
- Ensure the lights installed meets legal requirements.
- Always have a navigation device with you whenever you are jet skiing at night.
The dangers of riding jet ski at night
Why is it outlawed in most states exactly?
Every means of transportation comes with its own danger and jet skis are no exception. The dangers of driving at night far outweigh daytime riding (for obvious reasons) but let’s get into that in a bit more detail in case you need reminding!
1. High risk of accidents and injuries due to poor visibilty
Taking out your jet ski at night on the lake to have a joy ride or for any other purpose whatsoever can be really risky. There are times when you can be thrown away by huge waves and other unforeseen accident.
I’ve been hit by huge waves during the day when jet skiing. You will find visibility almost impossible at night-time and won’t see those wakes coming.
It’s not just waves though. You will also be a lot less visible to other boats and vice versa.
2. Sudden change in weather or waters condition
This is one of the major challenges that might arise while driving your jet ski at night. Jet skiing in the dark can be affected by some natural conditions such as sudden heavy rain, high swell on lake and stormy weather conditions.
It is important and advisable that you do a weather check before you go skiing after sunset.
3. The limited manoeuvrability of jet skis
A jet ski will change directions a lot. Due to the fluctuation of currents, jet skis are vulnerable to sudden direction changes.
Unlike boats, personal watercrafts maneuver quicker and this can lead to loss of control and direction in such a way that it can move one in a route you don’t want to go.
If you are not a professional you will find operation much trickier in the dark.
4. Possibility of being fined
Most people who go jet skiing at night are fined for two major reasons. First, you can be fined if you are found jet skiing outside the legal time frame of your state or country which are usually 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.
Secondly, you can be fined if your jet ski does not meet the necessary legal requirements for jet skiing at night. On this note, it is important to check the legal requirements.
Common causes of jet ski injuries
There are several causes of jet ski injuries. The most common injuries are such as broken bones, brain injuries, concussion and head injuries, broken wrist, dislocated orbital sockets, fractured ankles, serious neck and back injuries, damaged ear drums, spinal cord injuries and a host of others.
Some injuries are beyond human control, however, there are those that are caused by the actions or inactions of human.
1. Children driving
Due to the physical constraints and insufficient knowledge, children cannot properly operate jet skis, so accidents and injuries becomes inevitable.
For this reason, children within the age range of 12 to 16 are mostly prohibited and restricted to operate jet ski. Here’s some more information on age restrictions.
2. Racing and reckless driving
The feeling of racing and speeding through the water on your PWC (personal watercraft) can be so exciting. Riding at high speed can also be very dangerous (see how fast jet skis can go).
You can stumble or hit anything before you even realize the danger is coming.
3. Lack of knowledge and experience
Many jet ski accidents and injuries occur as a result of lack or insufficient knowledge by the rider. Lack of knowledge about the etiquette and technique of riding jet ski can lead to serious injury.
Before you decide on jet skiing, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the lake and how to operate the machine. Most importantly, ensure to familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of jet skiing
Tips for staying safe when jet skiing
- Don’t drive at night!
- Gain adequate knowledge of the techniques and etiquettes of jet skiing.
- Ensure you are in the right state of mind.
- Learn to professionally operate a jet ski before driving.
- Stay vigilant and alert while skiing.
- Do not make sharp turns near another vessel.
- Do not follow a boat too closely.
- Learn or know how to swim.
- Always wear a life jacket. You can also wear gloves, wet suit and goggles for extra safety.
- Endeavor to always stay at least 100 feet away from watercraft, rafts, divers and swimmers.
- Pay attention to safety flags.
Do you need a license to jet ski?
Having a license before jet skiing is dependent on the law governing the use of jet ski in your country or state. For instance, places such as Spain, Italy, Canary, Fiji, Croatia, Greece, Holland, Israel and a host of others requires a license.
The licenses are issued to people within the age range of 18 years and above. In some of these countries, 16 years old are issued license only with the consent of their parents.
In the United Kingdom, Egypt, Holland and other countries, having a license is not a legal requirement before you own or ride a jet ski.