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Are boaters doing better when it comes to boating safety?

by BoatUS 15 Jun 07:40 PDT
Boating safety instruction has proven to be a critical factor in reducing fatalities, according to recent U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics © Boat Owners Association of The United States

The recently released U.S. Coast Guard 2023 Recreational Boating Statistics shows some good news on the boating safety front, with fatalities falling by 11.3% to 564 from 636 in 2022, and overall incidents decreasing by 4.9% from 4,040 to 3,844. Nonfatal injuries also dropped by 4.3% from 2,222 in 2022 to 2,126 in 2023.

Over the long haul, the Coast Guard report also noted that when the Safe Boating Act was first passed in 1971, the fatality rate was 20.6 deaths per 100,000 registered vessels. The latest stats show that number has been reduced to 4.9 per 100,000.

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, the nonprofit sister organization of Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), says that latest data is a testament to the collective efforts of boating safety advocates, educators and law enforcement agencies across the country. However, boaters shouldn't rest on their laurels.

"We can't seem to overcome some perennial issues," said BoatUS Foundation director of boating safety Ted Sensenbrenner. "Alcohol continues to be a leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Of the 75% deaths attributed to drowning, 87% were not wearing life jackets. Additionally, the top five primary contributing factors to accidents continue to be inattention, improper lookout, inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure."

However, says Sensenbrenner, boaters can increase safety efforts in these areas. "Can you save the alcohol for after boating, or at the minimum, ensure the skipper avoids alcohol? Keep in mind inebriated passengers are still a risk to themselves. Do you offer your guests comfortable life jackets that they will wear? If not going to be worn, are life jackets readily available and do you have one for everyone aboard? Are you keeping distractions at the helm to a minimum and using everyone's eyes aboard your boat as a lookout?"

One bright spot has been in boating safety education.

"Coast Guard stats continue to confirm the value of boating safety instruction, as they indicate the majority of deaths occur on vessels operated by individuals who had not received boating safety instruction," said Sensenbrenner. The Foundation plays a significant boating safety role by offering a free online boating safety course that meets minimum boating safety education requirements in 36 states that more than 2.5 million students have taken, as well as on-water training that boosts confidence behind the helm.

"BoatUS Foundation's goal is to ensure every boater has the knowledge and resources to enjoy America's waterways safely and responsibly, and to help get these numbers even lower next year," added Sensenbrenner.

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