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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 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
    education certificate.
  • 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
    motorboats (17%).
  • 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.

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Tel: 614-497-4088

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American Boating Association 2015