Personal Safety
Anatomy of
Legal Requirements
Operating A PWC
Navigational Rules
Accident Prevention & Rescue
PWC Exam

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Don't Drink & Drive!

Did You Know?

In California, it is illegal for anyone to operate a boat or motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. Youths under the age of 21 who are convicted of operating a boat or motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or higher can lose their privilege of obtaining or keeping a driver's license. Convictions of moving violations on the water can affect your driving record.











Drinking alcoholic beverages will not prevent hypothermia. Alcohol opens blood capillaries and brings more blood to the surface of the skin, giving a false sense of warmth. Actually, the increased blood flow near the skin's surface increases the loss of body heat.




































































A life jacket is only effective if it is the proper type and size, adjusted correctly, completely zipped and/or clipped, and worn at all times when in or near the water.

Did You Know?

The clothing you are wearing and the items you may be carrying will have an effect on your buoyancy while wearing a life jacket. For example, heavy cotton clothes such as jeans will weigh you down!


Persons on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket. For added safety, attach a whistle to the life jacket that can be used as a signaling device.



You will learn:

Some basic elements of personal safety

How to recognize and prevent environmental injuries (heat and cold)

About effects and dangers of alcohol and drugs on PWC operation and water safety

About different types of life jackets and their use

Personal Safety

Learn to Swim and Float

The ability to swim and float is basic to personal safety anytime you are in or near the water. These skills may help you save yourself as well as others. One gauge of swimming ability is being able to swim 100 yards using any stroke and to tread water for five minutes. If you are unsure of your skills or know that you need improvement, contact your local recreation center for practice times or swimming lessons.

Factors that Can Affect Your Judgment, Health, and Safety

Natural stressors such as sun (temperature and glare), wind, waves, vibration, and noise may affect your judgment and put you at a greater risk for a mishap. Drug and alcohol use also affect your judgment, health, and safety. It is important to watch your own condition and you should observe those you are boating with. It is often easier to see early signs of fatigue in others than in yourself.


  • Increase physical and mental fatigue.
  • Cloud judgement.
  • Slow reaction time.
  • Place boaters in an array of dangerous situations ranging from severe sunburn to boat collisions.

To reduce the impact of stressors:

  • Limit exposure to the stressors.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat energy foods such as energy bars or fruit.
  • Be well rested and take frequent breaks.
  • Wear 100% UV protection sunglasses, sunscreen,
    a hat and proper clothing.

Noise Levels

What is too much noise?

Noise from poorly muffled or non-muffled motors is not only annoying, it is illegal and prevents boat operators from hearing voices, signals, and warnings of danger. It is also illegal to alter your PWC muffler system as it can increase the amount and pitch of the sound from the motor. Remember that prolonged exposure to noise is a stressor that can increase fatigue and lower response time. The next time you go boating, be courteous. Reduce your level of noise, especially when you are in a congested or residential area. Don't operate your PWC in the same area for long periods of time, this may be unpleasant to others. Courtesy counts. Remember, your actions reflect on all PWC operators.

Alcohol and Drugs

Drinking alcohol and other drug use while boating are significant causes of accidents. Alone, alcohol or drugs impair judgment, slow response time and reduce your ability to respond to an emergency. Alcohol and drugs also increase the negative impacts of sun, wind, waves, vibration, and noise.


Temperature not only affects your judgment, but can lead to serious injury or illness. Hyperthermia occurs when your body is unable to sufficiently cool itself when exposed to high air temperatures. Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature drops below normal; if it drops low enough, death can result. It is important to know that both maladies are easier to reverse when recognized in their early stages.


  • Early symptoms of hyperthermia (heat exhaustion) include weakness, pale skin, headache, and heavy sweating. If the victim is not treated, the skin may become hot and bright red. The victim may become delirious or disoriented, followed by a loss of consciousness (heat stroke).
  • Avoid hyperthermia by avoiding prolonged direct exposure to heat and sun. When possible, spend time in a cooler location and be sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Avoid diuretics such as caffeinated sodas, coffee, tea or alcohol as these drinks will make you more dehydrated.


  • Early symptoms of hypothermia include feeling cold, shivering, loss of coordination, and feeling tired or ill. If the victim is not treated, violent shivering, increased heart rate, and impaired judgment will result. In advanced stages of hypothermia, symptoms include cessation of shivering, loss of consciousness, cold skin and blue lips, and the inability to speak, walk or swim. As this condition progresses, your breathing and heart can stop, resulting in death.

  • Avoid hypothermia by preventing heat loss. The best way to do this is to be properly equipped and clothed. This may include wetsuits, drysuits, warm synthetic clothing, fast-drying clothing, life jackets and a warm hat.

  • Your body temperature can drop quickly if your boat capsizes and you are in cold water. Get as far out of the water as possible by climbing onto any floating object, such as the boat's hull. This may help prevent heat loss from your body, especially if the temperature is warm and the winds are calm.

  • If you cannot get out of the water, keep your head out of the water to limit heat loss. Curl into a ball or huddle with other passengers and restrict movement of arms and legs to further help limit heat loss. These are known as HELP or Heat Escape Lessening Positions. The positions (at left) are most effective in calm waters.

  • Wind chill is the effect of the wind and air temperature on the human body. Wind chill can rapidly cause heat loss, especially if you are already wet. Under some conditions, such as in cool or cold weather, staying out of the wind may become a very important factor in staying warm.

  • If hypothermia is in the early stages you can easily reverse it by vigorously exercising to generate body heat and limiting your exposure to further cold. High energy foods and warm liquids (no caffeine or alcohol!) also help.

  • Seek medical help, except in mild cases, as improper rewarming can cause complications.

  • If left untreated, both hypothermia or hyperthermia can result in death.

for more information on hypothermia, consult website: http://www.dbw.ca.gov/resourc.htm and click on "hypothermia"

First Aid Training

In addition to learning about hypothermia and hyperthermia, it is important to learn First Aid. It is highly recommended that you at least receive training in basic first aid and CPR. The best place to contact for a class near you is your local American Red Cross office. Look in your local phone book or check the Internet at www.redcross.org for a chapter near you.

Safety Equipment

Safety equipment is essential to the proper operation of any boat or vessel, including PWC. Some safety equipment is required by law, while other equipment is recommended. The most important piece of equipment for personal safety is the personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket. The life jacket must be the correct type, have a good fit and be well maintained.

Life Jackets

Most boating fatalities occur as a result of drowning and could be prevented by wearing a personal flotation device, better known as a life jacket. Modern life jackets are colorful, comfortable and easy to wear. Wearing a life jacket is important, regardless of your swimming ability or your boating experience.

Each person on board a PWC must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. A life jacket should provide enough buoyancy to keep you afloat until help comes. Therefore:

  • Check that the life jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type III or Type V.

  • Check that the life jacket is appropriate for your weight and chest size.

  • Check that it is properly fitted and fully clipped or zipped up.

To make sure that you have selected the correct life jacket for yourself:

  • Check for a snug fit. Adjust straps and buckles to ensure a proper fit that does not restrict breathing. If you lift a partner's life jacket by the shoulders, the life jacket should not ride up to cover the wearer's ears. Readjust the straps and buckles, and if it still does not pass the lift test, try a different size.

  • Check the buoyancy in safe water by relaxing your body and letting your head tilt back. The life jacket should keep your chin and mouth out of the water, and allow you to breathe easily.

The most common types of life jackets used on PWC are Type III and Type V as shown here.

Type III, flotation aid. (15.5 lbs. buoyancy)

Where: Good for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of a fast rescue.

Advantages: Generally the most comfortable for continuous wear because of the freedom of movement for activities such as personal watercraft, water skiing, paddling, small boat sailing, and fishing.

Disadvantages: Not for extended use in rough water. Wearer may have to tilt head back to avoid face down position in the water.

Sizes: Many individual sizes from child to adult.


Type V, special use device.

Where: Required to be worn for special uses or conditions.

Advantages: Made for specific activity. Typical Type V life jackets that are used for PWC are designed to help protect the user in case of an impact.

Disadvantages: See label for limited use.

Sizes: Many individual sizes from child to adult.

To learn more about life jackets, consult our website

Some things to remember:

To make sure that your life jacket remains in good condition and has a long life:

  • Do not alter the life jacket. An altered life jacket no longer meets legal requirements and may not save your life.

  • Do not place heavy objects on the life jacket during storage or use the life jacket for a kneeling pad, boat fender, or seat cushion. They lose buoyancy when they are crushed.

  • Let the life jacket air dry thoroughly before putting it away.

  • Always store your life jacket in a well-ventilated place, out of direct sunlight and away from fuel or oil.

  • Never dry your life jacket by a direct heat source, such as a dryer, heater, or radiator.

  • Before wearing, check the life jacket for signs of wear and age. Look for rips or tears, mildew, insecure or missing straps, frayed webbing, broken zippers or buckles, and hardened stuffing. A life jacket with any of these problems must be replaced.