Boating accidents, deaths fell in 2018

There were fewer boating accidents and fewer fatalities among recreational boaters in 2018, according to Coast Guard data that showed the vast majority of serious incidents involved powerboats. Sailing, by contrast, remains one of the safest forms of recreational boating.

The Coast Guard released its 2018 Recreational Boating Statistics report in late August. The document counted 4,145 accidents that caused 633 deaths and 2,511 injuries. The data show accidents, deaths and injuries fell by 3.4 percent, 3.8 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

The 2018 report affirmed data from previous annual summaries showing that the majority of all fatal boating accidents (77 percent) involve drowning, with 84 percent of those victims not wearing PFDs. Alcohol remained the leading factor in boating deaths.

“Where instruction was known, 74 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction,” the report noted. Other key takeaways showed open motorboats accounted for 46 percent of the 4,145 accidents, followed by personal watercraft and cabin motorboats, which accounted for 19 and 15 percent respectively. Almost 50 percent of recreational boating deaths, or 311 total, occurred in open motorboats. Eighty-four people died while kayaking, and 44 died canoeing.

Based on the data, sailing, in contrast, remains one of the safest forms of boating. Auxiliary sailboats were involved in 233 accidents last year, with operator inattention/inexperience, machinery failure, weather and inappropriate lookout accounting for 75 percent of those accidents. Alcohol use contributed to seven sailing incidents.

There were 11 fatalities involving passengers aboard auxiliary sailboats, seven of which were the result of drownings, and 40 injuries. Non-powered sailboats had 35 accidents in all, including four deaths, all coming from drowning.

The report also showed a slight dip in the number of U.S.-registered boats. All told, there were 11,852,969 total registrations, a decline of roughly 108,000, or .091 percent, from a year earlier.