For many, the warmer summer weather and longer days mean it’s time to go boating. Whether you have a boat of your own, plan to rent one or hope to join a chartered cruise, boating can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors. And it starts with proper safety.
Most boaters return safely at the end of their voyages, but Coast Guard reports show that thousands of people suffer boating injuries every year. Hundreds die. Naturally, since the first step toward sharing your fishing stories with all your friends and family is to return from your trip, you want to conclude your trip safely.
Safer boating begins with better choices
Boating doesn’t have to be dangerous. But the choices you make can increase or decrease your risk. With that in mind, here are four notable safety facts and statistics pulled from the latest Coast Guard report:
- Recreational boating is more dangerous than driving. According to the latest figures from the Coast Guard, 2018 saw 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered vehicles. In that year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reported13 traffic fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. The metrics are different, but if we imagined that every boat traveled 1,000 miles in a year, we’d see a rate of 5.3 deaths per 100 million miles. Even if every boat traveled 2,500 miles in a year, there would still be nearly twice as many boating deaths.
- Life jackets and safety equipment matter. This cannot be overstated. Drownings accounted for more than three-quarters of all boating fatalities. More than 80% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
- The size and condition of the ship play a big role. Most boating deaths involved boats that were 21 or fewer feet in length. This likely owes in part to the fact that these are the boats most commonly rented to inexperienced boaters. But the condition of the boat also matters greatly. Machinery and equipment failures accounted for hundreds of accidents, as did exposure to carbon monoxide and the sudden ignition of gas fumes.
- The captain remains the most important piece in the safety puzzle. Operator errors were by far the largest cause of boating accidents. The leading causes for accidents were operator inattention, improper lookout and inexperience. Alcohol use plays a large role in boating accidents and an even larger role in fatal accidents. Alcohol consumption was the single leading factor in fatal boating accidents.
The good news is that you can improve your safety by making good choices. Unexpected weather and other uncontrollable factors sometimes overturn good planning, but your choices can help you avoid all the leading causes. Don’t drink and boat. Wear a life jacket. Make sure your ship is seaworthy. And if you’re chartering a cruise, make sure your captain is experienced.
Boating safety matters more in the summer
Most boating accidents occur in the summer. This is because recreational boating spikes between June and August. And while you can act responsibly to lower your chances of injury, others may act irresponsibly.
There’s always a chance that your captain will fail you, or another boater may crash into you. But if you’re wearing your life jacket, the odds are you can get back to shore. And you can work with an experienced maritime attorney to find a positive end to your story. Even if you lose the big fish.