The Coast Guard released its 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics report revealing boating fatalities nationwide totaled 658, the second highest number in five years.
In the Northeast, recreational boating deaths decreased from 55 in 2016 to 54 in 2017. Thirty-nine of the 54 people who died drowned and 41 of the 54 deaths were the result of capsizing or falling overboard. Thirty-nine of the 54 people who died were not wearing a life jacket and 19 out of the 54 deaths involved a paddle craft.
“Last year, 39 people died because they were not wearing a life jacket and the majority of those victims drowned,” said Walt Taylor, recreational boating safety coordinator for the First Coast Guard District. “I can assure you, none of these victims planned to have an accident that day; wear your life jacket.”
Some additional important boating safety measures that can save your life include:
- Wearing a life jacket can save your life. Nationally, seventy-six percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned, according to the 2017 statistics. Of those drowning victims, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Children are not exempt from drowning. Be sure children boating with you all have properly fitted life jackets and know basic boating safety appropriate for their ages.
- Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it is listed as the leading factor in 19 percent of deaths. Refrain from using alcohol or other impairing substances when operating boats or other watercraft.
- Always have a marine VHF radio on your boat, along with an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon) in case of emergency, as cell phones may not be dependable while out on the water.
- Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents, according to the 2017 statistics, so be sure you are not operating a boat or watercraft that is beyond your level of knowledge and handling skill.
- Take a boating safety course or get a free safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, www.cgaux.org. The 2017 statistics show 81 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known. About 14 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate.
- Small boats and shallow water don’t make for instant safety. The 2017 statistics show that eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length, so small boats and shallow water can be just as dangerous as larger vessels and deep water.