Recreational Boating Statistics Report

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September 28, 2021
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Recreational Boating Statistics Report

The United States Coast Guard has released its Recreational Boating Statistics report for 2020 and the data is not good. The report is based off incidents that resulted in at least one of the following criteria: death, disappearance, injury that required medical treatment beyond first aid, damages to the vessel(s) or other property that equaled or exceeded $2,000, or a loss of vessel.

The report reveals that there were 767 boating fatalities nationwide in 2020, a 25.1 percent increase from 2019. Here in California, accidents were also up, from 324 in 2019 to 493 in 2020. The number of boating fatalities in California were 39 in 2020, the same as 2019

A summary of the report also shows that in 2020: • The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, the highest in the last 20 years. This rate represents a 25 percent increase from last year’s fatality rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. • Property damage totaled about $62.5 million. • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket and 80 percent of drowning victims were on vessels less than 21 feet in length. Where boating instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (50 percent), kayaks (15 percent), and pontoon boats (9 percent).

The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards prior to getting out on the water. It is crucial for boaters to wear a life jacket at all times because it very likely will save your life if you enter the water unexpectedly. Boaters are reminded to make sure that life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, and correctly fastened.

What can we all do to promote safe boating? First let us determine what unsafe boat operation is. Such behaviors as boating while intoxicated, not wearing a personal flotation device, operating your vessel at a high speed in “no wake” zones, in crowded waterways, in restricted visibility, near fixed objects or near persons in the water are all deemed unsafe. Not being familiar with or understanding the navigation rules, not keeping a proper lookout, and being unfamiliar with your particular vessels handling characteristics all contribute to unsafe operation. What are the two things we can all do to immediately lower the boating accident rates - wear your personal flotation device and reduce the use of alcohol while operating a vessel. A recent maritime operations accident analysis reports that 71 percent of human errors were situational awareness related problems. High stress situations can cause distraction or fixation, physical or mental fatigue affects alertness, and the desire to get home creates excessive motivation.

Do not become a statistic, boat safe.

Captain Pat Carson

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