Total boating fatalities last year rose to 758, the highest number on record since 1998, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s official 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics released today.
From 2010 to 2011, total reported accidents decreased less than one percent from 4,604 to 4,588, deaths increased 12.8 percent from 672 to 758 and injuries decreased 2.3 percent from 3,153 to 3,081. Property damage totaled approximately $52 million. The fatality rate measured 6.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, a 14.8 percent increase from last year’s rate of 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. Alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 16 percent of the deaths.
Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket. Only 11 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction.
“We’re alarmed about the staggering number of deaths,” said Capt. Paul Thomas, Director of Inspections and Compliance. Thomas emphasized the importance of boating responsibly, citing the story of a family who lost two children while kayaking in Big Horn Lake in Wyoming last summer. After the weather picked up, the seven kayaks capsized and the party became separated. Boaters should always check the weather forecast prior to launching and remain watchful of changing conditions.
The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly while on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, get a free vessel safety check and avoid alcohol consumption.
– The U.S. Coast Guard