Alcohol, lack of safety training are big drivers in boat fatalities

By Laura Mize • Published: July 2nd, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, more than 4,000 recreational boating accidents took place in U.S. waters in 2013. These accidents caused more than $39 million in property damage and killed 560 people.

While these numbers are down from 2012, they’re still too high. Most boating accidents involve alcohol, and thus could likely be prevented if boat operators refrained from drinking while boating.

According to Coast Guard stats, another big factor in boating accidents is a lack of safety training. In cases where the operator’s level of training was known, only one-fifth of the boating fatalities occurred on a boat operated by a person who had received safety training.

The Coast Guard provides web links on its boating safety website that direct users to a variety of organizations that can help boaters improve their skills. Classes cover a breadth of topics, such as boating with children, basic boat handling and weather.

In addition to refusing alcohol and undergoing training, boat operators can make their fun on the water less risky for everyone by practicing a few other safety basics.

Everyone … especially children … should wear life jackets aboard a boat. Coast Guard statistics show that most boating fatalities happen when the victim is not wearing one.

Another must is to properly maintain your boat and stock it with safety gear. State laws vary, but some common items that boaters should keep handy include a fire extinguisher, flotation devices, a visual distress signal, navigation lighting to keep your boat visible, and more.

Boating is one of Americans’ favorite summer activities. Following a few key precautions could help boating become as safe as it is fun.