At this time of year the U.S. Coast Guard releases its annual Recreational Boating Statistics report. The information within is collected from U.S. qualified sources to be analyzed before being published to the public on a trailing year basis. This means that the data we have for review in this update reflects the information gathered during the 2019 recreational boating season.
The Inspections & Compliance Directorate of the Coast Guard has been delegated the responsibility to collect, analyze, and annually publish statistical information obtained from recreational boat numbering and casualty reporting systems. This information is a result of the coordinated effort of the Coast Guard and those states and territories that have Federally-approved boat numbering and casualty reporting systems. These include all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
So what does this data tell us? To begin with, it tells us that recreational boating safety is a serious topic. For example, in 2019 there were 4,168 accidents, These involved 2,511 injuries that included 171 people being struck by a propeller, and 613 deaths. The damage to property as the result of these events was estimated to be $55 million dollars or more. If this sounds like a lot, consider that it is about a 1.9% accident reduction, and a 3.2% reduction in deaths from the data released in last year’s report. Sadly, the number of injuries increased by 1.9%.
As a recreational vessel owner/operator you are responsible for the safety of your family, friends and crew while on your boat. Here are a few facts you should be aware of to make your time at sea as safe as possible.
· The top 10 causes of boating accidents were 1: operator inattention, 2: improper lookout, 3: operator inexperience, 4: excessive speed, 5: alcohol use, 6: machinery failure, 7: navigation rules violations, 8: weather, 9: hazardous waters, 10: the force of a wave, or a wake.
· In 79% of fatal boating accidents the victims drowned (439 people). 82% of these unfortunate souls were not wearing a life jacket.
· 80% of those who drowned were boating in an open motorboat (21 feet or less, or a motorized canoe/ kayak), 20% were using a paddle craft (non-motorized canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.)
· 70% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instructions. However, only 20% of deaths occurred when operators had passed an approved boating safety course.
If an accident occurs, the operator/owner is required to file a Boating Accident Report when:
· A person dies, or a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury
· A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid
· Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more
· There is a complete loss of any vessel
Regulations require that an operator/owner file an accident report within 48 hours of an occurrence if:
· A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence
· A person requires medical treatment beyond first aid
· A person disappears from the vessel
Accident reports are required within 10 days if there is damage to the vessel and property only.
These are sobering statistics, but with proper training and education serious skippers can take steps to help ensure all passengers arrive back at the dock safe and sound. To begin, if you aren’t an experienced boater, take a boating safety course. If members of your family haven’t taken a safe boating course bring with you as a family. If your friends haven’t taken safe boating classes, recommend they take a safe boating course as well.