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Earlier last month the United States Coast Guard released their annual report on recreational boating statistics, compiled from operators who were involved in incidents.
2017 showed a year-over-year 3.9% decrease in accidents. Injuries dropped dramatically, as well, down 9.4%. And deaths fell 6.1% to a total of 658. However, the USCG notes that while fatalities were down in 2017, 2016 and 2017 had the highest number of deaths in the past five years.
Additional points of interest:
- The fatality rate was 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 6.8% decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.9.
- Property damage totaled approximately $46 million.
- Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
- Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
- In the cases where it was known, 81% of fatalities happened on vessels where the operator had no boating safety instruction.
“Although these lower numbers are encouraging, I ask those who boat to continue to do so responsibly, especially by donning a life jacket,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard headquarters. “Wearing a life jacket is the single-most important thing you can do to save your life or the life of someone you care about.”
Captain Johnson pointed out two things that he found overly discouraging: 19% of deaths were alcohol related, and, in cases when the cause of death was known, 76% of deaths were by drowning. Of those drowning victims, 84.5% of those who died were not wearing life jackets. Both of these factors are easily preventable and could have resulted in significant decrease in deaths.
“As a career Coast Guardsman, where it is my mission to prevent accidents and save lives on the water, it is extremely frustrating to see cases where something as simple as wearing a life jacket would have made the difference for life over death for 84.5% of the drowning cases,” said Johnson.