Boating fatalities and injuries up in 2002

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, the United States Coast Guard released its 2002 Boating Accident Reporting Data (BARD), citing an increase in registered recreational boats and a corresponding increase in boating fatalities, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported in a statement yesterday.

States and jurisdictions reported a total of 13,040,726 registered recreational boats in 2002, compared to 12,876,346 in 2001, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“NMMA is concerned that boating fatalities and injuries have increased,” said Monita W. Fontaine, NMMA vice president of government relations. “Each boating injury is taken very seriously by recreational boat manufacturers. The industry will redouble outreach and advocacy efforts to advance boating safety education, urge boaters to wear PFDs, encourage regular vessel maintenance checks and eliminate boating while under the influence.”

Many of the 750 fatalities and 4,062 serious injuries reported were the result of collisions with other vessels; however capsizing and falls overboard are the most reported types of fatal accidents, the Coast Guard said.

According to the report, the overall leading contributing factors to boat injury are “operator inattention, operator inexperience and excessive speed.”

Seventy percent of fatalities drowned and 85 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. The Coast Guard reported that about 440 lives could have been saved last year if boaters had worn their life jackets.

The involvement of alcohol in boating fatalities also is on the rise from 34 percent in 2001 to 39 percent in 2002, according to the Coast Guard report.

Lastly, as in previous years, approximately 80 percent of all reported fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction, stated the Coast Guard.

The recreational boating industry will continue to work with the Coast Guard, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and boating safety organizations to better educate boaters, NMMA stated.

Several states, including Washington State, are considering mandatory boater education, already required in a majority of the states. NMMA said it believes education is imperative and that it supports each state’s individual decision of what best meets the unique concerns for their bodies of water.

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