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Boat fatalities at all-time low in 2007

Despite all the boating accidents that happen every day, fatalities are at an all-time low in the U.S., according to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The count has dropped from 710 in 2006 to 688 in 2007, the lowest figure since 2004.

“It’s gratifying to see the number of deaths going down,” says Rear Admiral James Watson, director of prevention policy, in the report. “We hope that this is a result of more boaters adopting responsible boating behaviors, such as making sure that everyone on board is wearing properly fitting Coast Guard-approved life jackets at all times.”

The news came during the first National Safe Boating Week sponsored by the Auxiliary, which was held May 17-23. But while fatalities are going down, other statistics increased. Injuries rose from 3,474 in 2006 to 3,686 in 2007, and reported recreational boating accidents rose from 4,967 in 2006 to 5,223 in 2007, according to the report.

The top causes for all accidents included operator inattention, careless/reckless operation, passenger/skier behavior, excessive speed and alcohol use, which was also the leading factor in 21 percent of boating deaths. Also, three-fourths of the deaths occurred on boats where the operator had not received safety instruction, according to the report.

The Coast Guard continues to encourage boaters to wear life jackets, stating that two-thirds of those killed in boating accidents drowned, with 90 percent of those not wearing a life jacket, according to the report. The Coast Guard also recommends boaters never operating any type of vessel under the influence, completing a boating safety course, and getting a free vessel safety check annually by the local Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadrons or state boating agency vessel examiners.

— Elizabeth Ellis