Safe boating is the aim of all boaters and comes from education/training
and experience. This excerpt from a recent Boating Statistics report,
provided by the United States Coast Guard, is presented in the interest
of safety by helping boaters learn from the experience of others.
To read the full report, please visit
Historically, one indicator of safety in recreational boating is
the fatality rate, e.g., the number of reported fatalities as compared
to the number of registered recreational boats. The registered boat
population is based on the annual Report of Certificates of Number
Issued to Boats, each State and jurisdiction forwards to the Coast
Guard. The report also provides statistics on registered boats by
length, hull material, and type of propulsion. Please note there are limitations to this methodology.
One is that fatality rate comparisons between States are invalid
because of differences in the scope of each State's boat registration
system. Another limitation is that fatalities occur on boats which
are not registered, and therefore not included in the boat registration
statistics. Users should be aware of these limitations when working
with the fatality rate. A more reliable estimate of the fatality
rate for each State or jurisdiction can be found by comparing fatalities
occurring only on specific categories of registered boats.
In 2015, the Coast Guard counted 4,158
accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613
injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of damage to property as a result of
recreational boating accidents.
The fatality rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
This rate represents a 1.9% increase
from last year’s fatality rate of 5.2
deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
Compared to 2014, the number of accidents increased 2.3%, the number of
deaths increased 2.6%, and the number of injuries decreased 2.4%.
Where cause of death was known, 76% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of
those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 85% were not wearing a life
Where instruction was known, 71% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator
had not received boating safety instruction.
Only 15% percent of deaths occurred on
vessels where the operator had received
a nationally-approved boating safety
Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in
Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and
excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
Alcohol use is the leading known contributing
factor in fatal boating accidents; where
the primary cause was known, it was listed
as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.
Twenty-two children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2015. Twelve
children (55%) died from drowning. Two children (17%) of those who drowned were
wearing a life jacket; half of the remaining ten children who were not wearing a life
jacket were not required to do so under State law.
Where data was known, the most common types of vessels involved in reported
accidents were open motorboats (45%),
personal watercraft (19%), and cabin
Where data was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were
open motorboats (46%), kayaks (12%), and canoes (11%).
The 11,867,049 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2015 represent a
0.5% increase from last year when 11,804,002 recreational vessels were registered.
For charts containing the following statistics, click on the individual links below.