With the pandemic putting more people than ever on the water and consequent rise in boating accidents and fatalities, there’s some better news in the newly released 2021 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics.
The latest Coast Guard report shows double-digit declines year-over-year across the board in the main boating safety indicators: boating accidents dropped 15.7 percent, injuries decreased 17.2 percent, and fatalities dropped 14.2 percent. The 2021 fatality rate decreased to 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, a 15.4 percent reduction from 6.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.
“The new report shows a dramatic decrease in injuries and fatalities, more than I can recall in recent memory,” said BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water president Chris Edmonston. “However, even with Covid restrictions lifted and boating no longer one of the few ways to recreate with the family, operator inexperience remains one of the top risk factors contributing to accidents.” Operator inattention, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed round out the list.
“The need to focus on these five boating safety basics and the continued need for boating safety education has not changed,” added Edmonston.
The BoatUS Foundation offers the only free online boating safety course accepted by boating license agencies in 36 states. Courses are also NASBLA-approved and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Foundation also offers On-Water Powerboat Training at 15 locations from Maine to Florida and Southern California.
What’s influencing these latest boating safety numbers? “We’re unsure if this latest data is an anomaly or a trend, but we believe the increasing number of states requiring mandatory boating safety education, as well as states requiring education for a greater portion of their boating citizens, is having a positive effect,” said Edmonston. He also notes, however, that paddlecraft operators remain a concern, as they typically don’t have any requirements for education before hitting the water. Where the data was known, 2021 statistics show that 15 percent of deaths were attributed to kayaks — unchanged from the year prior.