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Boating Fatality Facts

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 www.uscgboating.org


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 2014, the Coast Guard counted 4,064 accidents that involved 610 deaths, 2,678
injuries and approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property as a result of
recreational boating accidents.

    • The fatality rate was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
      This rate represents a 10.6% increase from last year’s fatality rate of 4.7
      deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
    • Compared to 2013, the number of accidents increased 0.05%, the number of
      deaths increased 8.9%, and the number of injuries increased 2.2%.
  • Where cause of death was known, 78% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of
    those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84% were not wearing a life
  • Where instruction was known, 23% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator
    had received boating safety instruction. Only 12% percent of deaths occurred on
    vessels where the operator had received a nationally-approved boating safety
    education certificate.
  • Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in
  • Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and
    alcohol use 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 21% of deaths.
  • Twelve children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2014. Seven
    children or approximately 58% died from drowning. Four children or 57% of those
    who drowned were wearing a life jacket; two were not required to by state law.
  • Where data was known, the most common types of vessels involved in reported
    accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (17%), and cabin
    motorboats (15%).
  • Where data was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were
    open motorboats (47%), canoes (13%), and kayaks (10%).
  • The 11,804,002 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2014 represent a
    1.7% decrease from last year when 12,013, 496 recreational vessels were registered.

For charts containing the following statistics, click on the individual links below.

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