With recreational boating season in full swing across the country, the Coast Guard and local officials are encouraging boaters to wear life jackets and avoid drinking while operating their boats. There's data behind these warnings: according to a recent Coast Guard report, alcohol was the most common known factor in recreational boating deaths last year, and the vast majority of drowning victims of boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.
Each year, the Coast Guard analyzes recreational boating statistics to better understand the main causes of boating accidents and to encourage safe behavior to prevent future accidents. The 2016 data suggests that recreational boaters across the U.S. may not be taking safety as seriously as they should: across the U.S., recreational boating fatalities are up by more than 11 percent over 2015.
Here are some of the report's other main findings, using data on recreational boating accidents compiled by the Coast Guard:
- In boating deaths where the cause of death was reported, 8 out of 10 deaths were by drowning.
- 83 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets (of those cases where life jacket usage was known).
- Alcohol was the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths. Other common factors in accidents included boater operators failing to pay attention, inexperienced operators and excessive speed.
- At least 47 percent of deaths and accidents occurred on open motorboats.
- 77 percent of deaths happened on boats operated by someone who had not had any boating safety instruction.
If you're planning on taking a boat out this summer, the takeaways are pretty clear: Make sure you have safety training, have everyone on board wear a life jacket, and keep the alcohol away from anyone driving the boat. Driving defensively is also a good idea, especially in areas with heavy boat traffic.