Owning a jet ski is thrilling, but it comes with certain responsibilities—the main one being to ensure you know the code of conduct for using this watercraft.
As of 31 March 2023, the rules and regulations surrounding jet skis are set to change, improving the safety of the UK’s waters for everyone who uses them. Brushing up on your knowledge before heading out this season is highly advised.
Here you’ll find everything you need to know on this topic, including the basic safety rules for driving a jet ski and the new legislation’s impact.
What are the main jet ski rules and regulations?
Just like driving on the road, there is a code of conduct when driving on water. For the sea, these
rules are outlined in theInternational Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGs).
Rules may differ for inland bodies of water, but there is an effort to bring these as close to the COLREGs as possible.
The most important jet ski rules to remember are:
- always give way to your right (starboard)
- always abide by local speed limits
- you must give way to every other kind of vessel, including windsurfers, canoes, and pedalos, besides larger fishing vessels or ships
- when inside a channel, keep the green buoys on your right going in and left coming out
It’s important to know this information to avoid using your jet ski recklessly—there’s no real excuse for not reading up on the jet ski rules and regulations before heading out on the water.
Knowing that you should give way to other watercraft due to being the smallest and most manoeuvrable boat on the water is crucial and could prevent any unnecessary accidents.
Likewise, knowing how to manoeuvre within a channel near the shore is another important jet ski rule to abide by. To clarify—these are marked by green buoys on the right and red buoys on the left and are there to show the routes in and out of the harbour.
Keep the green buoys on your right going in and left coming out. Whichever way you’re going, keep right just as you keep left when driving on the road.
Related:7 common jet ski injuries and how to avoid them
What are the 2023 updates to jet ski rules and regulations?
Theboom in watercraft useduring the COVID pandemic caused a surge in the dangerous misuse of jet skis, and the government is acting accordingly through increased regulation.
As of 31 March 2023, theMaritime and Coastguard Agencywill gain more powers to prosecute individuals who cause accidents by reckless misuse of watercraft to ensure the UK’s waters remain some of the safest in the world.
Since watercraft are not currently covered by maritime safety legislation, this move demonstrates the government are cracking down on this behaviour and holding those who cause accidents responsible.
The new law means that individuals charged with using their jet ski or watercraft dangerously could receive anunlimited fineor up totwo years in prison.
If an accident causes loss of life, perpetrators could receive tighter prosecution alongside wider manslaughter charges.
You should revisit theCOLREGsto avoid using your watercraft in a dangerous manner ahead of the new law coming into effect this summer. Always check the individual rules of any waterways you use, too.
You may want to considerspecialist jet ski insurancefor financial protection in the event of an accident.
Do I need a jet ski licence?
The short answer is no—you don’t need a licence to drive a jet ski in the UK. However, if you intend to rent one abroad, it’s worthchecking local lawsto see if any qualifications are required. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to take lessons first.
Although you don’t need a licence to use a jet ski, it’s worth noting that landowners will often charge you a launching fee.
How much this fee is and whether it applies depends on where you intend to jet ski. Wherever this is, research how you’re allowed to launch and how much it costs beforehand.
The only thing you do need a jet ski licence for in the UK is racing. This is awarded by theJet Sport Racing Association of Great Britain (JRSA).
The JRSA also makes several other stipulations, such as wearing:
- a wetsuit or drysuit
- a life vest, a back protector
- a full-face helmet
- leg guards
How fast can I drive my jet ski?
A jet ski can usually travel40 to 70 mph, depending on the model.
Speed limits vary and are typically set by local authorities, so it’s your responsibility to find out before you arrive at your chosen location.
Usually, your speed will be drastically limited when near the shore or within a certain range of it, with limits easing beyond it. Make sure you look out for speed limit signage.
Organised races will always occur in a restricted area of water, and such is the nature of a race, speed limits won’t apply.
What safety equipment do I need when driving a jet ski?
While there are no firm jet ski safety rules in place regarding equipment, you can follow our tips for best practice to ensure you always have a fun and safe experience.
It’s a good idea to have the following to ensure your safety when driving your jet ski:
- A wet suit—surprisingly, you might get cold riding a jet ski. If you fall into the water and start riding again, you can catch a chill from the wind. A wet suit will keep you insulated.
- A life jacket—no matter how good a swimmer you are, you must wear a life jacket.As stated by the RYA, “it will turn an unconscious person into a safe position and requires no subsequent action by the user to maintain this position.”
- A safety lanyard—this will kill the jet ski’s engine if unplugged, so make sure it’s attached to you. If you come off, the lanyard will come off with you, and the jet ski’s engine will cut out.
- A flare—these are the best way to attract attention and alert surrounding boats to sea emergencies.
- An air horn—if your jet ski doesn’t have a horn, this is a good substitute.
- A jet ski toolkit—it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with basic jet ski repairs. This way, you’re not stranded out in the water over basic problems, should they occur.
Related:10 things to look out for when buying a used jet ski
Other important jet ski safety information
Jet ski rules and regulations are as much about understanding watercraft laws and customs as acknowledging your legal liabilities.
You share the water with countless other vessels, so knowing how to interact with them is imperative, whatever the circumstances.
Though you shouldn’t ride your jet ski at night or in the fog anyway, if you find yourself in either situation, you must have green and red sidelights, and a raised white light lit to show the direction in which you’re moving.
If you’re unlucky enough to encounter fog or poor visibility, you should give a long blast of your horn every two minutes to alert other vessels to your presence.
Going anywhere near larger ships is incredibly dangerous, but even if you think they’re far away, they might be trying to communicate with you. Listen out for their foghorn if you enter their vicinity. As a rule of thumb:
- one blast means they’re altering course to starboard
- two blasts mean they’re altering course to port
- three blasts mean they’re going astern
- five blasts mean your intentions are unclear, and you should leave the area or give way
Outside of the jet ski safety rules outlined in this article, you should also be respectful of the environment you’re using when out on the water.
Be aware of the noise your craft makes and avoid using it too early in the morning around the shoreline. Never spill fuel or litter into the water, and avoid using your jet ski near wildlife.
It’s common sense and keeps everyone’s experience enjoyable. Knowing the basic jet ski safety rules and etiquette when meeting other water enthusiasts is the best way to stay out of trouble.
Specialist jet ski insurance with Insure4Boats
Accidents and theft are a real risk, whether you’re towing your jet ski to your favourite bit of coastline or out on the water already. That’s why you may want to consider specialist insurance.
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