Objective Personal water craft (PWC) are small, motorized boats that transport up to two people and can obtain speeds over 60 mph. PWC are built for adult use but children can participate as operators or passengers. Due to the hazardous nature of PWC, one state in the USA passed policies that set a minimum age of operation of a PWC and required boating education before operation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the injury rate among children under age 12 before and after the regulations were enacted.
Methods The state of Arkansas passed legislation in 1999 that regulated age of operation and required boating education for PWC use. Data was obtained from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that investigates boating crashes on lakes and waterways. Data was evaluated for the years 1994 through 2005.
Results The data suggest that the policies provided some protection immediately after implementation. However, injury rates among children climbed to levels experienced pre-policy enactment.
Conclusion The impact of policies and regulations had a short-term impact on PWC-related injury among children. It is not certain the reason for the increase post-policy implementation. Suggestions are that the media campaign immediately before policy implementation created awareness that provided short-term behavior change. The injury rates went down initially post-policy but increased soon after the end of the media campaign. Another reason could be that the policy had a short-term effect but then users realized that enforcement was going to be challenging so participants took risks.