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 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4515 accidents that involved 651 deaths,
3000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a
result of recreational boating accidents.
The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
This rate represents a 12.9% decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 6.2
deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
Compared to 2011, the number of accidents decreased 1.6%, the number of deaths decreased 14.1% and the number of injuries decreased 2.6%.
Almost seventy-one (71) percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of
those, almost eighty-five (85) percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.
Almost fourteen percent (14) of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only nine (9) percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA-approved course provider.
Seven 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 contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed
as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.
Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Ten
children or approximately forty-two (42) percent of the children who died in 2012 died
from drowning. Two children or twenty (20) percent of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law.
The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (15%).
The 12,101,936 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2012 represent a
0.59% decrease from last year when 12,173,935 recreational vessels were regisistered.
For charts containing the following statistics, click on the individual links below.