Operator age varies by county
First of all, the watercraft you are referring to are "personal watercraft." Referring to them as a "jet ski" when the actual vessel was not could subject one to legal issues as "Jet Ski" is the trade name of personal watercraft made by the Kawasaki Corporation.
The tragic examples given were right on target. The editorial has the statement "Jet ski accidents are uncommon, according to USA today". Based on the involvement in vessel mishaps, I would hope this is a typo and you meant to say "not uncommon...." Personal watercraft accidents are mostly preventable by simply reading and adhering to the information in the manufacturer's owner's manual, taking a boating education course with the personal watercraft supplement.
Under Washington state law, a personal watercraft operator must be at least 14 years old. However, there are several counties that require the operator be 16 years old and in possession of picture identification (Chelan, Douglas, Spokane and others.)
Thank you for the reminder that must always be repeated -- wear a life jacket. In addition to wake rules, personal watercraft operators need to maintain a safe distance, which in most cases is at least 100 feet. The editorial refers to vehicles; these are not vehicles but vessels, Class A vessels to be exact. The safety lanyard if so equipped must be used; failure to do so is a violation of RCW 79A.60.190-criminal misdemeanor.
When operating these vessels one would be better off staying alert and keeping their head on a swivel looking around as opposed to being on a spring bouncing around. The points regarding not drinking and driving and protecting the life of the operator and others on the water is right on the mark.
I know this may seem picky, but it is important that if you are going to provide the public with information that the information be accurate, factual, and practical.
Lt. Rodney C. Rochon
Snohomish County Sheriff's Office