Each year states are required to file a report with the United States Coast Guard indicating the number of recreational boats registered and the number of boating accidents and fatalities which occurred in their jurisdiction. From these numbers the Coast Guard compiles the annual Report of Certificates of Number Issued to Boats.
The number of injuries and accidents are broken down by size of the boat, type of material used for the hull, and type of propulsion. In addition to yearly statistics the Coast Guard publishes statistics for the previous ten to fifteen years to chart trends among users of recreational boats.
GATHERING DATA FOR BOATING ACCIDENTS AND ASSOCIATED FATALITIES
When reading the annual report it is important to keep in mind there are limitations to the data collected. Fatalities may occur on boats which have not been registered, and there are slight differences between state’s registration laws. Rather than looking at the total number of fatalities for the year, it is more accurate to look at the number of fatalities for each category of registered boats. Categories of registered boats include motorboats, personal watercraft, cabin motorboats, sailboats, and houseboats.
DEFINE RECREATIONAL BOATING ACCIDENT
In order for the state to label an accident involving a boat as a recreational boating accident there are certain criteria which must be met. First, and most obvious, the boat must be used for recreational purposes and not involved in commercial work. Secondly, the boat must also be involved in:
– Collision with another boat or object – Electrocution – Fire or explosion – Sinking – Person ejected from boat or leaves the boat to swim while the boat is not docked – Flooding or capsizing – Carbon monoxide asphyxiation
WHEN TO FILE A RECREATIONAL BOATING ACCIDENT REPORT
An operator of a recreational boat must file an accident report if a person dies or is injured beyond what can be treated with normal first aid, if there is damage to the boat or other property totaling more than $2,000, or someone disappears from the boat under mysterious circumstances. The operator of a recreational boat is not required to file an accident report if damage done to persons or property was done while the boat was docked. If the injury was the result of someone leaving the boat to take a swim, the operator must be able to prove that the boat was securely docked and used only as a platform for the swimmer.
DROWNING IS THE MOST COMMON TYPE OF FATALITY MOSTLY DUE TO NO LIFE JACKET WORN
The most common type of fatality reported each year is from drowning. In 2005 nearly seventy percent of all fatalities reported to the Coast Guard were the result of drowning. Of those fatalities reported, eighty-seven percent of those that drowned were not wearing their personal floatation devices (PFD/life jackets). The Coast Guard reports that of the 697 persons who drowned last year, nearly 426 could have been saved by taking time to put on a life jacket.
CAPSIZING AND FALLING OVERBOARD ARE MOST REPORTED ACCIDENTS FROM RECREATIONAL BOATS
The most reported accidents involving recreational boats are capsizing and persons falling overboard. The Coast Guard attributes these types of accidents to poor knowledge of boating safety, overloading boats beyond capacity, and inexperience of the operator. Excessive speed and alcohol are also contributing factors which lead to nearly one-quarter of the reported boating fatalities each year.
STATISTICS ON BOATING ACCIDENTS FROM DIFFERENT STATES
Looking at the reported statistics, those states bordering water (and especially the Atlantic and Pacific oceans) had higher reported fatalities and accidents. There were more reported fatalities and overall boating accidents in larger states. For example, Kansas reported twenty-four total accidents in 2005 with four fatalities. Property damage resulting from recreational boating accidents in Kansas in 2005 totaled close to $74,000. Florida boating accidents totaled 603 in 2005 and 78 people were fatally injured. Property damage in Florida resulting from recreational boating accidents totaled over $5,000,000. Maryland boating accidents in 2005 totaled 183, with 15 people killed and over $1,000,000 in property damage.
HOW TO ENSURE A SAFE BOATING EXPERIENCE
The key to a safe boating experience is to make yourself aware of the boat you are operating, all regulations and guidelines of boating safety and procedures, the waters you plan on navigating, and ensuring each of your passengers is wearing a lifejacket. A boating accident is considered personal injury, and if you have been a victim of a recreational boating accident it is important to seek the expertise of a personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer may be able to help you recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and damage to personal property caused by a recreational boating accident.