2014 Boating Accidents & How You Can Reduce Your Risk Of Having An Accident

Crewmembers aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium, from Coast Guard Station Charleston, S.C., approach an overturned boat, July 13, 2015, approximately 12 miles off the Charleston coast. The boat was found during a search for four overdue boaters who were later rescued by Station Charleston crews. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Crewmembers aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium, from Coast Guard Station Charleston, S.C., approach an overturned boat, July 13, 2015, approximately 12 miles off the Charleston coast. The boat was found during a search for four overdue boaters who were later rescued by Station Charleston crews. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Nobody wants to have a boating accident, here are my thoughts on how not to be a boating accident statistic, this is based on the U.S. Coast Guard’s study of 4,064 accidents in and compiled their 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics.

The steps to reduce your chances of having a boating accident are simple, have a sober driver, take a Boating Safety Class, pay attention to what is happening in and around the boat and a few more simple steps.

On the good side, recreation boating is a relatively safe activity with the accident rate remaining low for the last few years with some ups and downs.

One thing that jumped out was that in 77% of the deaths, the boat operator had no boating safety instruction.

There is no reason I can think of not to take a boating safety class of some sort, here in Washington State, The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron offer classes almost all over the state.  The cost is low with Auxiliary classes running typically from $25.00 to $40.00 per person for a one day class that meets the State Of Washington Boaters Education requirement (Washington State requires boat operators born on or after January 1, 1955 to have a Washington State Boaters Ed Card).  Many Flotillas offer discounts for families.  The two biggest costs for the class are the text books and room rental.  The instructors are volunteers and don’t get paid for teaching the class.  More information on Coast Guard Auxiliary Classes in your area.

Some Sheriffs Departments and Police also offer boating safety classes.

I am often ask about taking a class in a classroom or over the internet which is best or what should someone do?  I always recommend taking a class in a classroom.  My theory is that the person next to you might ask that question you are afraid to ask, or something the instructor or another student says will trigger a new question about something you might have done or seen happen on the water.

Where the cause of death was known, 78% of the deaths were due to drowning.  Of the drowning deaths, 84% were not wearing a Life Jacket.

Wearing a Life Jacket is a simple thing to do.  There is now a wide choice of life Jackets available, and with proper care they will last for many seasons.  Remember to inspect them at least once a year to make sure they are in good usable condition, also keeping them clean will help prolong their life as will storing them in a cool dry area during the off season (remember to put them back on the boat at the start of the boating season – many people have been known to forget the Life Jackets and other safety gear the first time out).

Inflatable Life jackets require extra care in the inspection, follow the manufactures instructions for testing and maintenance intervals.  All require some sort of inflation on a regular basis (usually requiring them to sit overnight to check for slow leaks.  The valve on the oral inflation tube can also leak.  Inflatable’s are made of fabric and just like your cloths can wear.

Remember that after an Inflatable Life Jacket has been inflated it needs to be reloaded and rearmed so it will work properly the next time.  Follow the manufactures instructions and only use the proper parts and cylinders.

Top Six Primary Contributing Factors for Accidents

  1. Operator Inattention
  2. Improper Lookout
  3. Operator Inexperience
  4. Excessive Speed
  5. Alcohol Use
  6. Navigation Rules Violation

Top Six Primary Contributing Factors for Deaths

  1.  Alcohol Use
  2. Operator Inexperience
  3. Operator Inattention
  4. Improper Lookout
  5. Excessive Speed
  6. Navigation Rules Violation

Alcohol Use (#1 for Deaths, #5 for Accidents).  Washington State does allow an open alcohol container in a boat while underway (not permitted in a car).  Alcohol can kill, no two ways about it.  The maximum Blood Alcohol level on the water is the same as on the highway 0.08%.  However a big caution here, environmental factors on a boat can act as a multiplier causing you to be impaired at a lower level than say sitting at home in the back yard.  Some environmental issues are fatigue from the constant motion of the boat and many times people spend a long time on the boat.  Dehydration from the heat and sun, causes the alcohol to go into the system faster than people are used to.  Noise and vibration can also add to the effects of alcohol and make you less alert.

Operator Inexperience (#2 for Deaths, #3 for Accidents).  People new to boating are most at risk, just like on the highway.  Get some experience, go boating with experienced safe boaters, take a class that has on the water as part of the curriculum, invite a friend to come along with you that is an experienced boater, I know many people that have done this, amazing what the offer of a bit of food and drink after you get back to the slip will do to get people to ride along with you.  Also be aware of your inexperience and maybe don’t try some of the things you have seen others do, discretion goes a long ways toward safety.

Operator Inattention (#3 for Deaths, #1 for Accidents).  OK, pay attention to the operation of the boat and what is going on and not so much talking or whatever to someone on the boat or adjusting the music machine, talking on the cell phone or taking pictures while you are the one that is operating the boat.

Improper Lookout (#4 for Deaths, #2 for Accidents).  A lookout is required when you are underway (not at anchor,or made fast to the shore, or aground).  LOOK OUTSIDE THE BOAT, pay attention to everything around the boat.  When you are a passenger on a boat act as a lookout even if you are not ask to.

The sails on a sailboat can hide large areas around the boat and make it difficult for the person at the helm (the person driving) to see all around the boat.  Powerboats can also have blind spots.  Point out to the driver things you see that might be an issue (other boats, trash in the water, Aids to Navigation or buoys, etc).

If you are driving and someone points out something you have been tracking for some time, please just say “thanks I have it”, DON’T yell at the person for the multiple notifications, the person will soon figure out that you are a jerk and keep quiet until you hit something or have an accident.

Excessive Speed (#5 for Deaths, #4 for Accidents).  Going to fast in a boat, can have many bad side effects.  Hitting a wave and launching the boat into the air causing occupants to be thrown out of the boat or banged around in the boat.  More difficult to see junk in the water, swimmers or small boats such as kayaks.

Some boats ride bow high and block the forward vision of the driver.  I also see boats operating at high speed close to other boats or speeding in congested areas.

Slow down at night, turn on your navigation lights, protect your night vision, post extra lookouts, not all boats remember to turn on their lights at sunset and not all lights work.

Navigation Rules Violation (#6 for Deaths, #6 for Accidents).  Everyone should read the Nav. Rules (COLREGS) at least once in their boating career.  Boating Safety classes usually hit the Rules of the Road fairly hard.  Boaters should know the common rules such as crossing situations and the which boat is stand on and which is give way.  Prudent boaters will slow down when it doubt, or maneuver so the risk of a collision does not exist.  I have a one page “Executive Summery” of the Marine Rules of the Road, please note, it is a subset of the common rules and thus it is not complete, but a good start or a review for experienced boaters.  It also includes a self test if you want to check your knowledge of the rules of the road.

Recreational boating is generally a very fun and safe sport, but it only takes a moment for something to go wrong.  Remember that all accidents are a chain of events (an auto rear ends another car, traveling too fast, road is slick from the rain, talking on the cell phone, not watching traffic, etc. – break any one of those events and you might only be scared but no accident), so stay alert and be on your guard at all times.

Download the full report 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics (PDF 6MB) compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Thanks for your interest in and support of Boating Safety

 – c / m –

This entry was posted in Boating Safety, Safety Thoughts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 2014 Boating Accidents & How You Can Reduce Your Risk Of Having An Accident

  1. davidgeller says:

    Excellent overview of stats and recommendations for staying safe while boating!

  2. Pingback: Selecting The Correct Life-jacket / PFD | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike

  3. Pingback: Dead Tired | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike

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