The U.S. Coast Guard released its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics on Wednesday, revealing that boating fatalities nationwide that year totaled 701, the highest number of yearly boating fatalities on record in the last five years.
Alcohol was the leading known contributing factor and was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
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 report also shows that in 2016 Property damage totaled approximately $49 million.
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. Where boating instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.
“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 Captain Scott Johnson, Chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. “All boaters should wear a life jacket at all times when on the water, no matter your age, physical ability or condition.”
The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. The vessel types with the highest number of fatalities were on open motorboats, kayaks, and canoes.
The statistics are available here.