RECREATIONAL BOATING SAFETY
COAST GUARD REPORTS A RISE IN BOATING FATALITIES
Update June 1, 2017: This year it has been reported that 2016 was the worst year for recreational boating fatalities and injuries since records have been kept. The trend as we first reported here has been up for a number of years and we believe the principal reasons are still as described in this post. We also think that the advice given at the end of this post can still save your life.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Coast Guard recreational boating fatalities rose last year to 758 reported nation wide , the highest number on record since 1998. From 2010 to 2011 total reported accidents actually decreased on an order of -1%, but deaths increased by 12.8% from 672 to 758. Recreational boating accident property damage in the same time frame totaled approximately $52 million. The fatality rate amounted to roughly 6.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, a 14% increase from last years 5.4 deaths per registered recreational vessel.
Interestingly the National Mariner's Association reports that commercial work boat accidents are grossly under reported to the U.S. Coast Guard and has provided background information to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Audits to that effect.
We have to wonder if recreational boating accidents might also be under reported. Often state or county sheriffs offices or state marine patrols respond to such accidents. Not all concerned are aware of exactly where the "navigable waters of the United States" begin and end. It seems highly likely that a significant number of recreational boating accidents never are brought to the Coast Guard's attention. Many recreational boats such as kayaks and canoes, stand up paddle boards, small rowing and sailing vessels are not "registered" recreational boats. Yet, there are probably quite a few of these vessels involved in accidents involving "registered recreational boats" on the "navigable waters of the United States.. Consequently we suspect the recent explosion in the numbers of these sorts of craft taking to the water may have something to do with the rise in fatalities. These vessels don't offer the occupants much protection when hit by a typical outboard recreational motorboat.
We are often skeptical of Coast Guard regulatory efforts and their various attempts at keeping and analyzing statistics, but we have a high regard for the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in boating safety and what they call "preventative SAR" (Search and Rescue). The fatality rate had been dropping steadily for years as the Coast Guard Auxiliary's boating safety education efforts bore fruit. The U.S. Power Squadron, and some state boating law administrator's public courses added to the weight of training spreading through the recreational boating community. We don't think that traditional recreational boaters or "yachtsmen" are driving up the fatality rate. We think more "incidental boaters" who primarily see themselves as participants in "water sports" are now more prevalent in the traffic. While we view the Coast Guard's count of fatalities per registered recreational boat as possibly flawed by the failure to identify and deal with the registered on unregistered unplanned hull contacts; we find their list of causation factors and some other statistics offered this year as highly useful in addressing the practical problem of reducing on water recreational deaths.
The Coast Guard lists as contributing factors in accident causation "operator inattention" "improper look-out", "operator inexperience", and "excessive speed". However leading the pack of contributing factors in boating accident causation is "alcohol use". Alcohol was listed as a contributing factor in approximately 16% of the fatal accidents. Of those who died in recreational boating accidents known to the Coast Guard 70% drowned. Of the drowning victims 84% were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFD often called "Life Jackets"). Most importantly, only 11% of the recreational boating accidents involved operators who had received boating safety instruction; and that does not mean that such boaters were "at fault" in the accidents they were involved in.
So no matter how accurate the latest statistics, or what flaws may have occurred in their compilation and presentation, the fact of an increase in fatalities is clear. More importantly the causation factors are the usual suspects that the Coast Guard Auxiliary has been fighting for decades. We believe that the Auxiliary and its partners such as the Power Squadron, and state boating law administrators have reached in a powerful way the "traditional recreational boating population". We suspect that the rise in fatalities represents an increased presence of non traditional boaters who have not been sold yet on recreational boating instruction.
In our various water sport pages such as diving, sailing, rowing and paddle sports we urge our book buying customers to seek out instruction and not to rely on just reading a book before engaging in these pursuits. The latest statistics from the Coast Guard underscore this advice. We would also like to add:
DON'T DRINK ALCOHOL ON THE WATER
WEAR A PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE AT ALL TIMES. DON"T SKIMP ON THIS, SPEND WHAT EVER IT TAKES TO GET SOMETHING THAT YOU REALLY WILL WEAR. ONLY THE PFD THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY WEARING WHEN YOU GO IN THE WATER CAN SAVE YOU.
PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING GOING ON ALL AROUND YOU IN AND OUTSIDE OF THE BOAT, PADDLE BOARD, OR WIND SURFER. YOUR SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT WILL MAKE MORE SENSE IF YOU TAKE A BOATING SAFETY COURSE EVEN IF YOU ONLY PADDLE OR ROW.
IF YOU DO PADDLE, ROW, OR SAIL DON'T COUNT TOO MUCH ON THE IDEA THAT THE NON MOTORIZED VESSEL HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY, THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, AND BESIDES, YOUR RIGHT OF WAY NEVER EXTENDS THROUGH THE OTHER GUY'S BOAT.
Be careful out there this summer. Read! But by all means take lessons in your water sport, be careful, avoid alcohol while on the water, buy a really comfortable PFD and wear it! Here at American Admiralty Books we desperately want you to be safe on the water. Remember only live customers can buy books or be counted in our advertising rate justification statistics.
THE BOATING SAFETY BOOK SHELF
Boating safety Kit