In its 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, the U.S. Coast Guard revealed that boating fatalities nationwide totaled 658, the second highest number in five years, according to a press release.
In the Northeast, there were 54 boating deaths in 2017. Of those 54 who died in boating accidents, 39 died because they were not wearing life jackets. According to Walt Taylor, recreational boating safety instructor for the First Coast Guard District, quoted in the press release, wearing a life jacket is one of the most important facets of boating safety, and should not be overlooked. “Last year, 39 people died because they were not wearing a life jacket, and the majority of those victims drowned,” he said. “I can assure you, none of these victims planned to have an accident that day; wear your life jacket.”
The Coast Guard urges people to make sure all children are wearing life jackets and to know basic boating safety for all ages.
Alcohol is the highest contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the Coast Guard. Even when the primary cause for the accident is known, it is listed as the leading factor in 19 percent of deaths. Using alcohol and other impairing substances when operating a watercraft is negligent, and can cause harm to the operator and others.
The Coast Guard suggests keeping a very high frequency (VHF) radio onboard at all times, as well as an emergency position indicator radio beacon (EPIRB). Do not count on cellular communication while out on the water; make sure there is proper communication equipment onboard.
Only about 14 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate.
An operator of a small boat or dinghy should not be overconfident in shallow waters. According to the news release, “small boats and shallow water can be just as dangerous as larger vessels and deep water.” The 2017 statistics showed that eight out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.