The U.S. Coast Guard released statistics on boating incidents for the calendar year 2021, revealing that there were 658 boating-related fatalities nationwide, a 14% decrease from 767 death in 2020.
From 2020 to 2021, the total number of accidents decreased by 16% (from 5,265 to 4,439) and the number of non-fatal injured victims decreased by 17% (from 3,191 to 2,641). Alcohol continues to be the largest known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 86 fatalities, or 16% of the total fatalities.
The data also shows that in 2021:
– The fatality rate was 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered pleasure craft. This represents a 15 per cent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 6.5 fatalities per 100,000 recreational craft registered.
– In 1971, when the Boating Safety Act was first passed, the fatality rate was 20.6 deaths per 100,000 registered pleasure craft.
– Property damage totaled $67.5 million, which is a historic record.
– Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper supervision, machine failure and excessive speed are ranked among the top five contributing factors to accidents.
Capt. Troy Glendye, chief of the Office of Marine Auxiliaries and Safety at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, noted that most incidents occurred in benign weather conditions: calm waters, light or no wind, and good visibility. .
When the cause of death was known, 81% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Among drowning victims who reported using a lifejacket, 83% were not wearing a lifejacket.
“A life jacket is one of the most important safety items on your boat,” said Glendye. “It’s essential to wear one while on the road, as it can be difficult to put it on in an emergency. The Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure that life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, properly attached, and suitable for your activity.
When navigation instructions were known, 75% of fatalities occurred on vessels whose operator had not received boating safety instructions. The U.S. Coast Guard encourages all boaters to complete a boating safety course that meets National Boating Training Standards before getting in the water.
The vessel types most frequently involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. When vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of fatalities were open motorboats (44%), kayaks (15%) and pontoons (10%). This is the second time that pontoon ships have made the top three.
Data is from incidents that resulted in at least one of the following: death, disappearance, injury requiring medical attention beyond first aid, damage to vessel(s) or other equal property or greater than $2,000, or loss of vessel.
In addition to wearing a life jacket and taking a boating safety course, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all boaters attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and not not drink.
“We commend the work of our boating safety partners who have resolved to reduce casualties through education and enforcement,” said Glendye.
For more information or to view the 2021 Boating Statistics report, visit http://www.uscgboating.org and select the “Statistics” menu then “Accident Statistics”.