x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Enforcement is key to new jet ski rules

Dubai authorities have introduced new rules for the use of jet ski. But as our story indicated, many beachgoers appear to be neither well-informed of the new regulations nor convinced of their relevance.

Two years ago this week, Abdullah Al Amiri was killed when he was struck by a jet ski his friend was riding. He was 17.

Dubai police said two of the boy's friends, on a jet ski, were dragging the victim and another boy on a raft. A fifth youngster, on another jet ski, was close behind, doing tricks. When a wave knocked Abdullah into the water his head was struck by the trailing machine.

That tragedy naturally prompted Dubai authorities to tighten the regulations governing use of these powerful toys.

But enforcement of such regulations has been lacking. As The National reported yesterday, Dubai Maritime City Authority has now introduced limits on where jet skis can be used, and how and by whom. But as our story indicated, many beachgoers appear to be neither well-informed of the new regulations nor convinced of their relevance. Evidently, both public education and better enforcement are vital if we are to avoid any more tragedies such as Abdullah's.

The new rules on Dubai beaches limit jet skis to areas designated by yellow buoys and impose a 300-metre buffer zone to separate the machines from swimmers. Rules also require compliance with speed limits, excess speed being a major cause of accidents.

It is common to see jet skis heading at high speed towards the beach, to suddenly swerve close to crowded beaches in a foolish effort to impress onlookers. Jet skiers sometimes also navigate close to beach-front cafes, even when these are often separated from the water by rock breakwaters. Such tricks are dangerous. Even for users convinced that they are experienced, a minor mistake can cost lives. The new rules keep the machines at a distance from the beach.

The rules also require a user below the age of 16 to be accompanied by an adult. Young users are often the most enthusiastic but they can also be the least prudent.

As wise as these new rules are, none of them would have saved Abdullah. Building a culture of safety is the real key here. For that, regulation is not enough. The new rules, and the need for them, must be communicated to residents, occasional visitors, and tourists alike. Why, for instance, must a teenager be licensed to drive a car but not a jet ski?

Warmer weather will make beaches more crowded, with people and jet skis alike. Everyone needs to think about safety.