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February 11, 1998

Personal Watercraft–Related Injuries

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;279(6):433-434. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-279-6-jac81007

To the Editor.—The report of watercraft-related injuries by Dr Branche and colleagues1 was timely but omitted discussing the impact of increased speeds on increasing the toll of dead and injured from personal watercraft (PWC).

Kinetic energy is the pathogen of PWC injuries.2 Watercraft injury exposure-outcome relationships are governed by Newtonian laws of motion and kinetic energy. As in motor vehicle crashes, small increases in speed mean increases in actual traveling speeds, increased crash fatality risk, and large increases in death tolls.3 Case fatality increases to the fourth power of the increases in watercraft impact speeds. A 10% increase in impact speed translates into a 40% increase in case fatality.4 Injuries and deaths to both the watercraft drivers and bystanders occur disproportionately among the very young or intoxicated.5

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