As boating season approaches, the U.S. Coast Guard is once again expressing concern over the continuing increase in boating fatalities and injuries, and plans to step up its safety education for boaters. Statistics show that for the second consecutive year boating fatalities increased (710 deaths in 2006) as did the number of reported injuries. The reports also reveal some other disturbing facts:
- Two-thirds of all fatalities were due to drowning and 90 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Simply put, over 50% of boating deaths could have been prevented if the victims had worn a life jacket.
- Alcohol was the leading contributing factor in approximately one-fifth of all boating fatalities.
- About 70 percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.
- The most reported type of accident was a collision with another vessel. However, capsizing and falls overboard are the most reported types of fatal accidents and accounted for the vast majority (59 percent) of all boating fatalities.
- Overall, operator inattention, carelessness/reckless operation, excessive speed and passenger/skier behavior are the leading contributing factors of all reported accidents.
Here are some simple tips boat owners and their passengers can take to insure their safety while enjoying recreational boating:
Wear your life jacket – As evidenced above, wearing a life jacket is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your safety on the water. And it doesn’t matter how great of a swimmer you are, you should still wear a life jacket!
Take boating safety courses – Boat owners, operators and passengers should complete courses offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and others. The Coast Guard Auxiliary encourages everyone who might be put in a position of having to take command due to incapacity of the owner/operator to take a basic safety course.
America’s Boating Course (ABC) is a new electronic, basic boating course produced through a partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons®. It’s available online at www.AmericasBoatingCourse.com and on CD-ROM.
Get a free Vessel Safety Check – Boat owners are encouraged to take advantage of free safety checks offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. It’s your best way to learn about potential problems that might put you in violation of state or federal laws, or — worse — create danger for you or your passengers on the water.
Vessel Examiners issue no citations. And there are no penalties for not successfully completing a Vessel Safety Check.
Don’t drink and boat – In the marine environment — motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and spray intensify the effect of alcohol and drugs. These “stressors” cause fatigue — and dramatically affect a boat operator’s coordination, judgment, vision, and reaction time.
Levels of blood alcohol or medications that would have little impact on land can potentially cause a much greater degree of impairment for the operator of a boat. So never boat under the influence!
The complete 2006 Boating Statistics report is available from the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating at http://www.uscgboating.org/statistics/boating_statistics_2006.pdf.