WASHINGTON (CBS)– According to new Coast Guard boating statistics, last year the nation saw the highest number of deaths in the past five years.
From 2015 to 2016, deaths increased 12 percent from 626 to 701, injuries increased 11.1 percent from 2,613 to 2,903, and the total number of accidents increased 7.3 percent from 4,158 to 4,463.
“The boating safety community should view these statistics as a stark reminder of the importance of boating safety education,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, Chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. “We are committed to providing boaters with resources including boating safety classes and vessel safety checks. One person lost or injured to a preventable boating accident is one too many so we encourage the boating public to use these educational resources as a means to prevent accidents.”
The Coast Guard’s report also showed that alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths.
The top five primary contributing factors in accidents were:
- Operator inattention
- Operator inexperience
- Improper lookout
- Excessive speed
- Machinery failure
The Coast Guard says where the cause of death was known, 80 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
“Wearing a life jacket, regardless of whether or not a state or federal law requires one to be worn, is the single greatest factor in preventing death from drowning,” said Johnson. “All boaters should wear a lifejacket at all times when on the water, no matter your age, physical ability, or condition.”
The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach your engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and avoid alcohol or other impairing substance consumption.