MI: Boating deaths decline but alcohol still leading cause, national report says
By Justine Lofton
June 10, 2020
Boating deaths declined in 2019 but alcohol continued to be the leading known factor in the fatal incidents.
Alcohol accounted for 141 of 613 boating deaths throughout the United States last year – that’s 23%, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics Report.
At the same time, the number of boating fatalities declined by 3.2% compared to 2018, the report said. That was while the total number of incidents held steady with a slight increase from 4,145 to 4,168, or 0.6%. The number of non-fatal injuries increased by 1.9% from 2,511 to 2,559.
Along with alcohol, operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience and excessive speed ranked in the top five primary contributing factors in incidents, the report said. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (48%), kayaks (14%) and personal watercraft (8%).
The Coast Guard encourages responsible boating: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check and boat sober.
“It’s critical for boaters to wear a life jacket at all times because it very likely will save your life,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety for the Coast Guard.
Where the cause of death was known, 79% of fatal boating victims drowned, the report said. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.
Lifejackets should be properly size and correctly worn, Johnson said. In some cases, boaters who died had not fastened their life jacket properly or had not replaced the expired cartridge in their inflatable life jacket.
Where boating instruction was known, 70% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction, the report said.