WASHINGTON — During the National Boating Safety Advisory Committee meeting on May 11, 2023 (NBSAC), the U.S. Coast Guard released a summary of statistics on calendar year 2022 recreational boating incidents, revealing that there were 636 boating fatalities nationwide in 2022, a 3.3 percent decrease from the 658 deaths in 2021.
From 2021 to 2022, the total number of accidents decreased 9 percent (4,439 to 4,040), and the number of non-fatal injured victims decreased 15.9 percent (2,641 to 2,222).
Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2022, accounting for 88 deaths, or 16 percent of total fatalities.
The data also shows that in 2022:
- The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 1.8 percent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. (In 1971, when the Safe Boating Act was first passed, the fatality rate was 20.6 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.)
- Property damage totaled $63 million.
- Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating incident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
“Most incidents occur in benign conditions—calm waters, light wind, and good visibility—under which you may least expect to end up in the water, which is why it is critical to wear a life jacket and engine cut-off switch at all times as they are designed to save your life,” stated Captain Troy Glendye, Chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety. The Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, correctly fastened, and suitable for your activity.
Where boating instruction was known, 74 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. The Coast Guard encourages all boaters take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards before they go boating.
The most common vessel types involved in reported incidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (47 percent), kayaks (14 percent), and personal watercraft and pontoons (9 percent).
The data is based on incidents that resulted in at least one of the following criteria: death, disappearance, injury that required medical treatment beyond first aid, damages to the vessel(s) or other property that equaled or exceeded $2,000, or a loss of vessel.
In addition to wearing a life jacket and taking a boating safety course, the Coast Guard recommends all boaters to attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and boat sober.
“We thank our partners in boating safety who have all made it their mission to prevent incidents through educational outreach and enforcement,” said Glendye.
The full 2022 Recreational Boating Statistics report should be available to the public on 1 June 2023 at http://www.uscgboating.org. The report will be accessible under the “Statistics” menu selection and the “Accident Statistics” submenu selection.
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