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Coast Guard reports increase in boating deaths in 2015

The Coast Guard announced this week that there were 626 boating fatalities nationwide last year, the third-lowest number on record. However, deaths increased 2.6 percent from 610 the previous year.

The Coast Guard also said in its 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics report that injuries decreased 2.4 percent from 2,678 to 2,613 and accidents increased 2.3 percent, from 4,064 to 4,158.

The report also shows that in 2015:

  • The fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels reflected a 1.9 percent increase from the previous year’s rate of 5.2.
  • Twenty-two children under the age of 13 died while boating in 2015. Twelve (55 percent) died from drowning. Two (17 percent) of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket; half of the remaining 10 who were not wearing a life jacket were not required to do so under state law.
  • Property damage totaled about $42 million.
  • Alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of deaths.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 76 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned; of those drowning victims, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Where boating instruction was known, 71 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats.

The vessel types with the highest number of fatalities were open motorboats, kayaks and canoes.

“We thank our boating safety partners for their efforts,” Capt. Verne Gifford, direction of inspections and compliance at Coast Guard headquarters, said in a statement. “They’ve done a tremendous amount of work educating the boating public, which has helped reduce injuries. However, boating under the influence and failure to wear life jackets remain among the leading factors contributing to most boating fatalities. Together we must continue to work to reduce the numbers of accidents, injuries and deaths.”

The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly while on the water: Wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach your engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check and avoid alcohol or other impairing substance consumption.

Click here for the 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics report.