Boating Fatalities Highest on Record in Last Five Years

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The 74-foot sailing vessel, Hawai'i Aloha, grounded Saturday morning. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The U.S. Coast Guard has released its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics report, revealing that boating fatalities nationwide totaled 701. That number is the highest on record for annual deaths in the last five years.

According to the 2016 report, deaths have increased by 12 percent, injuries have increased 11.1 percent, and the total number of accidents went up to 7.3 percent since 2015.

“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 2016 boating statistics also report:

  • The fatality rate of 5.9 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels increased by 11.3 percent from 2015ʻs rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
  • Property damage totaled approximately $49 million.
  • Alcohol was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading cause of accidents 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.

“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.”

Eighty percent of fatalities–where the cause of death was known–were a result of victims drowning. Of that number, 83 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket. Lack of proper boating safety instruction accounted for 77 percent of deaths.


The most common types of boats reported in accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. Open motorboats, kayaks and canoes represented the vessels with the highest number of fatalities.

“We commend the work of our boating safety partners who serve as a valuable resource to boaters,” said Johnson. “Together, we must continue to strive to reduce the number of accidents and casualties on our waterways.”

The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to act responsibly on the water by wearing a life jacket, taking a boating safety course, attaching the engine cut-off switch, getting a free vessel safety check and avoiding alcohol or other impairing substance while boating.


For more information on boating responsibly, visit the Office of Boating Safety.

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