Distracted Boating

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Boating accident statistics improved again in 2017, with the number of accidents dropping 3.9 percent and the number of deaths falling 6.1 percent.

Boating accident statistics improved again in 2017, with the number of accidents dropping 3.9 percent and the number of deaths falling 6.1 percent.

Boat safety training is critical, and new statistics can back that up.

Eighty-one percent of boat accident deaths occurred on vessels being operated by someone who had no boating safety instructions, the U.S. Coast Guard reported in its 2017 recreational boating statistics released this month.

Only 14 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate, according to the Coast Guard.

Percent of deaths by known operator instruction in 2017; source: U.S. Coast Guard

Percent of deaths by known operator instruction in 2017; source: U.S. Coast Guard

A nationwide push toward boating safety seems to have taken hold as accidents continued to decline — this week is National Safe Boating Week, a campaign held by the National Safe Boating Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service to educate boaters about safety and life jackets.

There were 4,291 accidents in 2017 that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

The fatality rate was 5.5 deaths-per-100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 6.8 percent decrease from the 2016 fatality rate of 5.9 deaths-per-100,000 registered recreational vessels.

Compared to 2016, the number of accidents decreased 3.9 percent, the number of deaths decreased 6.1 percent, and the number of injuries decreased 9.4 percent.

Inattentive boating was the No. 1 cause of accidents — there were 620 accidents causing 45 deaths in 2017 blamed on distracted driving.

“Inattention of the boat operator continues to be the leading cause of boating accidents, according to our statistical report,” said Maj. Rob Rowe, leader of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s boating and waterways section in a statement. “It is critical for operators to be aware of what is going on around them.”

Alcohol was the leading indicator of fatal accidents, with 102 fatalities out of 275 accidents; there were 350 alcohol-related accidents in 2016 that were responsible for 133 deaths.

Operator inexperience was the next largest indicator of whether an accident would be fatal, with 63 of 436 accidents winding up deadly.

Accidents have almost halved since 1997, from 8047 to 4,291; the low during that time was in 2013 with 4,062.

States coded by their 2017 fatality rate.

States coded by their 2017 fatality rate.

Florida had a five-year high for its number of accidents in 2017, a total of 723 that killed 66 people and accounted for $8.3 million in damages. In 2016, the state had 684 accidents and 59 deaths. Texas came next for the most deadly state with 170 accidents causing 63 deaths.

Nationwide, 7 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

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