Recreational boating fatalities hit record low

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard released its official 2010 Recreational Boating Statistics today, which show total fatalities fell to 672, the lowest number on record.

Coast Guard officials said that while they are heartened by the drop, they believe this number remains unacceptably high.

They noted that the 2010 total is only slightly lower than the 676 deaths in 2004, the previous record low, but it is 26 deaths lower than the average number of fatalities for the last 10 years.

Total reported accidents were 4,604 in 2010, down from 4,730 in 2009, while injuries totaled 3,153, down from 3,358. Property damage was estimated at $35 million.

“We’re glad to see the numbers decline,” Rear Admiral Kevin Cook, Director of Prevention Policy for the U. S. Coast Guard, said in a statement, “but the real tragedy is that so many of these deaths are needless and could have been prevented had boaters taken some simple steps. I am optimistic that the number of deaths and injuries can continue to be reduced further because of the strong commitment to safe boating from our partners in the States, non-government advocacy groups, and the boating industry.”

Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 19 percent of the deaths.

Cook emphasized the importance of boating education saying, “There is a clear link between safety and boating education. Statistics indicate that boaters who have taken a boating safety course are less likely to be involved in an accident. In addition, almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drowned; and of those, roughly 90 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket. The Coast Guard urges all boaters, whether as operators or passengers, to take a boating safety course, avoid alcohol consumption, and to always wear their life jacket.”

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