Still work to do on boating safety

The 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics report, released last week by the U.S. Coast Guard, showed some positive momentum for boating safety but also some setbacks.

Most notably, deaths increased from 610 in 2014 to 626 in 2015, a 2.6 percent increase and the total number of accidents increased from 4,064 to 4,158, a 2.3 percent increase. Overall, injuries decreased from 2,678 to 2,613, a 2.4 percent decrease. It’s worth noting that the 626 deaths are still the third-lowest number on record.

And in news that should surprise exactly no one, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in fatal accident, listed as as the leading factor in 17 percent of deaths. Other prominent accident causes included operator inattention, operator inexperience, machinery failure and excessive speed.

Drowning was still the top cause of death, with 76 percent (where cause of death was known) of fatal boating accident victims drowning.

And here are two other key stats: 85 percent of those drowning victims were not wearing life jackets, and, where boating instruction was known, 71 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.

It’s these kind of numbers that make it baffling to me when I hear some in the industry complaint about states requiring safety training, arguing it will discourage people from boating. But the question is how many people are scared away from boating because they think it is unsafe? It’s a comment I’ve heard from many a mother (and yes, it’s usually the mom, sorry) of my daughter’s classmates in the past. Even my own mom, who has been boating since she married my father 41 years ago. has never been really comfortable with it.

(To be fair, there are many industry associations and companies that continue to work to support safety.)

Of course, we’ll never be able to legislate away stupidity, but we can do better.

One comment

  1. Thanks Jonathan for publishing this and helping with the ongoing charge to raise awareness of boating safety. While reading about accidents and injuries is not heartening, I was encouraged to see that incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning were not specifically mentioned, albeit they certainly still occur too often. Realizing this, I was motivated to look at the statistics. I visited the USCG Boating Safety Resource Center page and found the following: During the 5 year period of 2005 through 2009 there were an average of 36 injuries reported that were caused by carbon monoxide. From 2010 through 2014 the average was 20. That’s a 77% decrease! In 2006 there were 51 incidents reported (the highest during the 2005 – 2014 period) and in 2014 there were only 8! So hopefully the downward trend will continue. Unfortunately many incidents go unreported and often times what are considered to be alcohol related incidents also involved carbon monoxide. Westerbeke Corporation has worked diligently producing and improving our Low-CO gasoline marine generator sets since 2005. We take pride in being a part of the effort to help make boating safer.

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