There are a total of 17 million recreational boats currently in use in the United States. Each year the U.S. Coast Guard releases a Recreational Boating Statistics report. 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 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 2,559 injuries that included 39 people being struck by a propeller, and 613 deaths overall. Alcohol was the leading factor in 23% of deaths. The damage to property as the result of these events was estimated to be $55, 320,226.00. 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.
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 operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, alcohol use, machinery failure, navigation rules violations, weather, hazardous waters, and the force created by waves and wakes.
· In 79% of fatal boating accidents the victims drowned (439 people). Sadly, 86% of these souls were not wearing a life jacket. So, be certain you have properly sized PFDs for everyone before you shove off.
· 80% of those who drowned were using an open motorboat (21 feet or less), The most common vessel types involved in accidents were open motorboats(45%) PWCs (19%) and cabin motorboats (16%).
· Vessel with the highest number of deaths were: open motorboats (45%) kayaks (14%) and PWCs (8%).
· 70% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instructions. However, only 20% of deaths occurred when the operator had passed an a boating safety course.
If an accident occurs, the operator/owner is required to file a Boating Accident
· 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, and 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 the 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 safe boating classes, send them too, or bring them with you as a family. If your friends haven’t taken safe boating classes, recommend that they do.