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Should PWCs in Australia be banned?

You probably know that PWC stands for ‘Personal Water Craft’. What you may not know is that a Jet Ski is a PWC, but not all PWCs are actually Jet Skis. (Yes, our brains hurt too.)

This is because, like ‘Xerox’ or ‘Roller Blade’, Jet Ski is actually a brand name that became so popular it took over the original term.

In legal terms, the brand name ‘Jet Ski’ (by Kawasaki) became a ‘generic’ term, used to describe all PWCs.

In the past 10 years, PWC sales have increased by 40% in Australia alone, making them the most popular category of boat in the nation.

Despite their popularity, PWCs still receive a bad rap. They’re now banned in Sydney Harbour because for seemingly poor safety outcomes. But is banning PWCs really the best move? We decided to dig deeper.

The facts about PWCs in Australia

  • On average, PWC license holders are around 15 years younger than most people who hold a boating license.
  • PWCS today are quiet, clean and can maneuver easily at low speeds. Unlike outdated models, they have brakes, cruise control and suspension.
  • PWCs are considered an ‘affordable luxury’.
  • PWCs are easy to store on land and easy to tow.
  • Many boat owners also own PWCs.
  • Some PWCs can carry up to 3 people.
  • Head here for the source on these facts.

Why do PWCs have a stigma?

You’ve probably heard it before. A family sits on the river and an idiot on a jet ski speeds past, purposefully spraying water on everyone.

But, consider that these scenarios are only caused by a very small population of PWC owners. In reality, most PWC drivers are respectful and safe on the water.

Director of the Boating Industry Association, Darren Vaux, wrote an opinion piece in Marine Business Magazine, calling for a review into how PWCs are actually operated.

Vaux believes a wide range of users should be assessed, to discover a more accurate understanding of PWC safety.

This comes on the back of PWC bans in Sydney Harbour and other key waterways, which have been criticised for being heavy handed by PWC lovers.

Vaux says another problem with blanket PWC bans is that it does not address the behavioural issues behind unsafe PWC practices, and moves the problem to other areas.

It also unfairly punishes the majority of PWC owners, who adhere to the rules and ride responsibly.

So, is there a solution?

Perhaps the smartest step forward is to move away from demonising PWC owners as ‘hoons’. Just like motor cyclists, there are plenty of responsible PWC owners, who do what is right, and also love the thrill of riding the water on a small, stealthier vessel.

Vaux suggests creating hubs or social events for those who like to ride and corner fast, much like motor cycle tracks and raceways.

Racetracks were originally created to take thrill seeking drivers off the streets, and into a safer environment, while still allowing them a thrill-seeking outlet.

PWC race events could then be adequately supervised, in locations suited to stealth riding. Vaux argues that prohibition is not a suitable solution, and advocates for proactive policy instead.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below to share your views on PWC safety. If you’d like to read Vaux’s full article, head here.

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