Boating deaths increased by 25% in 2020, Coast Guard says
(Tribune News Service) — Just in time for the July Fourth holiday weekend, the Coast Guard released its annual report on recreational boating statistics that indicates alarming increases last year in the number of boat-related accidents and deaths.
In 2020, according to the report, the number of recreational boating accidents increased 26.3% from the previous year, while the number of deaths rose 25.1% and the number of injuries increased 24.7%.
The report attributed the rise of accidents, injuries and deaths, at least in part, to evidence that more people took to the water during the pandemic.
The evidence was culled from “reports of increased boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims and calls for towing assistance.”
In all, the Coast Guard said it counted 5,265 accidents that produced 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries and $62.5 million in property damage.
“The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels,” the report stated. “This rate represents a 25% increase from the 2019 fatality rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.”
Where the cause of death was known, drowning was the primary cause of death — 75% — for fatal boating accident victims. The report also found that 86% of the drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket or other flotation device.
The report also drew a connection between the length of vessels and the drownings, as well as a connection between the drownings and the lack of formal safety training.
“Where the length was known, eight out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length,” the report stated in its executive summary. “Where instruction was known, 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 12% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator was known to have received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.”
The report also fingered alcohol consumption as the leading known contributor in fatal boating accidents.
“Where the primary cause was known, (alcohol consumption) was listed as the leading factor in 18% of deaths,” the report stated.
Other takeaways from the report:
— The most common type of vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (46%), personal watercraft (22%) and cabin motorboats (13%).
— The vessel types with the highest occurrence of deaths were open motorboats (50%), kayaks (15%) and pontoons (9%).
— There were 247 accidents resulting in at least one person being struck by a propeller — resulting in 39 deaths and 241 injuries.
— The top five contributing factors in accidents were operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure.
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