Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2018, accounting for 100 deaths, or 19% of total fatalities.

While these decreases are encouraging, there are still too many deaths and injuries that could be avoided through the use of life jackets and eliminating alcohol consumption while operating a boat

according to Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters.

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In fact, half of a boating party perished in Alabama in July 2018 when an inebriated passenger bumped into the operator, who had also been drinking, which caused the operator to swerve and crash into a bridge piling at about 25 mph.  Two people were killed, including one who was struck by the boat’s propeller. The operator had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.15, which is nearly twice the state’s legal limit of 0.08.

The report also shows that in 2018 the fatality rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which tied as the third lowest rate in the program’s history. This rate represents a 3.6% fall from last year’s fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

In addition, property damage totaled about $46 million, while operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and excessive speed ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84% were not wearing a life jacket.

It’s so important for a boater to always wear a life jacket and to make sure that it is serviceable, properly sized, and correctly worn. He noted that a number of deaths involved inflatable life jackets that had expired cartridges or life jackets that were not buckled, thus making them ineffective as lifesaving devices

Mr. Johnson explained.

Moreover, where boating instruction was known, 74% of deaths happened on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. USCG recommends that all boaters should take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards, before getting out on the water.

What is more, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were:

  • Open motorboats - 50%;
  • Kayaks - 13.5%;
  • Canoes - 7%.

Other findings of the report, state that:

Where length was known, eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length;

  • Where instruction was known, 74% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 18% percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate;
  • There were 177 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 25 deaths and 177 injuries;
  • Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents;
  • The 11,852,969 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2018 represent a 0.91% decrease from last year when 11,961,568 recreational vessels were registered.

The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and boat sober

USCG concluded.

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