The 2015 annual recreational boating statistics report was released by the United States Coast Guard, which found the third lowest number of fatality deaths in a year at 626 deaths. While the total number of fatalities represented a slight increase in the rate of deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, it represented a continued trend in the decreasing number of overall boating related deaths. In addition to 626 deaths, in 2015, there were 4,158 vessel related accidents leading to 2,613 injuries. To put these numbers in perspective, in 2015, there were 11,867,049 registered recreational vessels, an increase of 63,047 from last year.
In 2015, the top 5 vessels with deaths or injuries consisted of 1) open motorboat; 2) personal watercraft; 3) cabin motorboat; 4) canoe/kayak; and 5) pontoon. In addition, the top 5 primary accident types last year were 1) collision with recreational vessel; 2) collision with fixed object; 3) flooding/swamping; 4) grounding; and 5) skier mishap. In 2015, the top 10 known primary contributing factors of accidents were:
1) Operator inattention (551 accidents, 58 deaths, 353 injuries)
2) Operator inexperience (458 accidents, 37 deaths, 288 injuries)
3) Improper lookout (410 accidents, 17 deaths, 278 injuries)
4) Machinery failure (307 accidents, 17 deaths, 134 injuries)
5) Excessive speed (305 accidents, 18 deaths, 289 injuries)
6) Alcohol use (260 accidents, 91 deaths, 228 injuries)
7) Hazardous waters (219 accidents, 80 deaths, 115 injuries)
8) Navigation rules violation (215 accidents, 8 deaths, 149 injuries)
9) Weather (185 accidents, 40 deaths, 60 injuries)
10) Force of wave/wake (159 accidents, 8 deaths, 136 injuries)
While accidents unfortunately do occur, there are safety measures that can be taken to help prevent and decrease the number of boating related accidents, injuries, and deaths. Kraft Davies, PLLC strongly encourages any vessel owners or users to receive boating safety education. Boating education significantly reduces the likelihood of death, as 71 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operation did not receive boating safety education, while only 15 percent on vessels where the operation did receive safety education. There are many boating safety courses offered throughout the United States which cover all aspects of boating safety ranging from how to read the weather, local boating laws, how to anchor, and how to navigate. Another very important safety measure that should be taken is wearing a life jacket. In 2015, where the cause of death was known, 76 percent of boating death victims drowned. In addition, of those victims whom drowned, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. On board a boat there should be a life jacket for each person aboard. Kraft Davies also suggests having a vessel safety check completed to ensure your boat is working properly. This service is free via the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which has certified vessel examiners who will perform a free Vessel Safety Check. Their goal is to help make boating as safe as possible and we support this initiative. We also endorse taking the following safety precautions: 1) Do not drive a boat while under the influence of alcohol; alcohol intoxication incidents were the leading cause of boating deaths in 2015; 2) Have a float plan in case of emergency; 3) be aware of your weather forecast and do not boat in hazardous waters and conditions.
If you have questions about your right to compensation for a recreational boating injury, contact one of our experienced maritime injury attorneys for a free consultation.