During the National Boating Safety Advisory Committee (NBSAC)meeting on May 11, the U.S. Coast Guard released a summary of statistics on the calendar year 2022 recreational boating incidents, showing that there were 636 boating fatalities nationwide in 2022, a 3.3 percent decrease from the 658 deaths in 2021.
From 2021-22, the total number of accidents decreased by nine percent, going from 4,439 to 4,040, and the number of non-fatal injured victims decreased by 15.9 percent, from 2,641 to 2,222.
Alcohol was once again the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2022, accounting for 88 deaths, or 16 percent of total fatalities.
The data also shows that in 2022:
• The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 1.8 percent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. (In 1971, when the Safe Boating Act was first passed, the fatality rate was 20.6 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.)
• Property damage totaled $63 million.
• Operator inattention, inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure ranked as the top five contributing factors in accidents.
Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating incident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
“Most incidents occur in benign conditions—calm waters, light wind, and good visibility—under which you may least expect to end up in the water, which is why it is critical to wear a life jacket and engine cut-off switch at all times as they are designed to save your life,” stated Captain Troy Glendye, Chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety. In addition, the Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure life jackets are serviceable, adequately sized, correctly fastened, and suitable for their activity.
Where boating instruction was known, 74 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. Therefore, the Coast Guard encourages all boaters to take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards before boating.
The most common vessel types involved in reported incidents 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 (47 percent), kayaks (14 percent), and personal watercraft and pontoons (nine percent).
The data is based on incidents that resulted in at least one of the following criteria: death, disappearance, an injury that required medical treatment beyond first aid, damages to the vessel(s) or other property that equaled or exceeded $2,000, or a loss of the vessel.
In addition to wearing a life jacket and taking a boating safety course, the Coast Guard recommends all boaters attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and boat sober.
“We thank our partners in boating safety who have all made it their mission to prevent incidents through educational outreach and enforcement,” said Glendale.
The 2022 Recreational Boating Statistics report should be available on June 1 at http://www.uscgboating.org.