Michigan Senate Raises PWC Operator Age

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Michigan lawmakers voted this week to bar children under 14 from operating personal watercraft such as Jet Skis and to raise the age limit for unsupervised riders to 16.

The Senate-passed bill also would let personal watercraft users operate on lakes until sunset, one hour longer than under existing law, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Ted Hammon, a Burton Democrat who is sponsoring HB 6014, said when Jet Skis and WaveRunners were introduced, they were built for single riders and could only go 15 mph. Some now fit three or four people and can go over 60 mph.

The bill passed the Senate on a 23-14 vote. Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, a Norton Shores Republican, said the law addresses a few isolated incidents and isn't necessary. State statistics show there were 46 fatalities stemming from personal watercraft accidents between 1989 and 2007 and 18 of the victims were teens.

Present Michigan law lets 12- and 13-year-olds operate personal watercraft if they have a safety certificate and are riding with a parent or guardian. The law would prevent those youngsters from riding at all, and require supervision for 14- and 15-year-olds.

The measure would not take effect until October 2011 to "grandfather" in younger teens whose families may have recently bought a personal watercraft, Hammon said.

The legislation could reach Gov. Jennifer Granholm by week?s end. If she signs it, the law will be named for Ashleigh Iserman, a 17-year-old who was killed in 2004 after crashing a personal watercraft into a boat.