Boaters have become safer over the past few years, statistics say. In 2013, there were 560 boating accident fatalities — 91 fewer than in 2012 and 198 fewer than in 2011. Sadly, that’s still a high number, and lest we applaud our record reduction, note that 2011 was a high-water mark for boating fatalities — the most in nearly 15 years.
Lack of education, failure to abide by the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules, alcohol consumption and failure to wear approved life jackets are the combined ingredients for this cocktail of grief. And though we boaters have shown improvement, we are still sipping the deadliest of libations. Clearly there is more to do.
Of the fatalities last year, 71 percent were drownings. Life jackets could’ve saved most of them. Alcohol is the primary contributor to fatal accidents, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all boating fatalities and about 40 percent of all boating accidents.
Surprisingly, though, there’s a far more insidious demon in our damning accident rate, and it really puzzles me. Operator inattention and failure to maintain a proper lookout are the key factors in about 20 percent of all accidents. Seriously? We boaters aren’t watching where we are going? When boaters take their eye off the waterway around them, they risk injuring not only themselves, but their crew and the crews of vessels around them too.
So as we celebrate National Safe Boating Week, let’s keep our eye on the waterways, our alcohol at home port, and maybe, just maybe, study our copy of the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules.
And for your family’s sake, buckle on a life jacket. It’s really that easy.