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Deaths among standup paddleboard and kayak users in NY rose in 2017

The growth of paddlesports in the Empire State highlights the need for residents to take a safety education course. Photo credit: Sarah Lilja

The growth of paddlesports in the Empire State highlights the need for residents to take a safety education course. Photo credit: Sarah Lilja

Boating fatalities in New York state are showing an increased rate of deaths related to kayaks, canoes, standup paddleboards and other unregistered crafts, with the majority of victims capsizing or falling overboard without personal flotation devices.

The state had 22 boating-related deaths in 2017, and 14 of them were related to unregistered craft, or 63.6 percent — eight more deaths related to those vessels than in 2016, according to BoatUS.

The state reported 22 fatalities in 2017 – the same as 2016 – which had placed the Empire State 31st in the nation for boating fatalities.

Boat Owners Association of The United States said the overall statistics show that efforts are paying off to improve safety with recreational boats, but there is a need to increase efforts to educate paddlers.

“Boaters must do all they can to improve their boating safety, whether it’s ensuring they have all of the required safety gear aboard or making better on-water decisions,” said BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water president Chris Edmonston in a statement.

“With the significant growth of paddlesports, the challenge is finding a way to increase on-water safety with waterway users who are, in a sense, not traditional boaters and are outside existing boating safety-education channels,” Edmonston said. “Anyone can pick up a kayak today for a few hundred dollars without much understanding of the risk factors, such as the need to navigate safely, how to share the waters with other vessels, or why they should wear a life jacket even on a sunny day.”

To help improve paddler safety, BoatUS recommends paddlers take the free online paddlesports safety course at americancanoe.org. The BoatUS Foundation offers a free online safety course for recreational boat owners at BoatUS.org/NewYork that meets the state’s education requirements and may earn a boat insurance discount.

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