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ABA Boating Safety Program

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Boating Safety - It Could Mean Your Life

In the calendar year 2020, the US Coast Guard reports that there were 5,265 recreational boating accidents that involved 767 deaths and 3,191 were injured.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 18% of the deaths.

Additional contributing factors for deaths were operator inexperience, operator inattention, excessive speed, improper lookout, navigation rules violation, drug use, sharp turn, failure to vent and restricted vision.

ABA encourages every boater to be serious about boating safety, starting with the proper kind and amount of boater training. Remember, a boating mishap or fatality often involves innocent people who share in none of the blame, but all of the consequence. As a responsible boater, the life you save may very well be someone else's. Remember, B E S A F E* - KNOW YOUR...



Safety devices and PFDs

Alcohol limits

First aid and emergency procedures

Environment (area and weather)


 * Source: National Safe Boating Council

Take a few minutes to browse through the headings in this important section.

Boating Pointers

The following helpful boating pointers are useful to boaters of all types.

ABA assumes no responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information given. You are proceeding at your own risk.

Attn: ABA Members - for more boating tips and pointers, click here.

Boating Safety Articles

Equipment and Emergency Preparedness



Navigation and Boat Handling

Anchor Information

Chart Information

General Navigation and Boat Handling Information




Alcohol and Boating


Boating Safety Quizzes

Using U.S. Coast Guard Information

The U.S. Coast Guard offers a great deal of useful and practical boating safety information including:

File a Float Plan

It is always a good idea to use the U.S. Coast Guard Float Plan that describes the details of your planned outing. It contains the who, what, where, when and how of your outing or trip. Simply fill out the form before heading out on the water, print it, and leave it with a person who can be depended upon to notify the local police, sheriff, Coast Guard station or other rescue organization, should you not return as scheduled. (Do not file this plan with the Coast Guard.) The information provided is considered the "minimum" information needed when filling out a float plan. Consider utilizing the back side(s) of these forms to provide as much detailed information as possible to ensure complete information is on hand in the event you should have a mishap.

Boating Accident Statistics

Read the latest recreational boating accident statistics as compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard to learn from others' mistakes. The information is available in Adobe PDF File format.


Every member of your crew should have a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Device. PFDs, they float you don't! Of the 534 recreational boating drowning deaths in 2020, the US Coast Guard approximates that 450 victims (84%) were not wearing a life jacket. The following are guidelines for the care and use of PFDs:

  • Buy your own life jacket, and wear it. One size does not fit all.
  • Look at the label for size and weight limitations.
  • Try it on and check the fit. With straps and buckles secured, the life jacket should not slip over your head or cover your eyes.
  • Make sure the life jacket is Coast Guard approved.
  • Replace your life jacket if you find air leakage, mildew or rot.
  • Never alter a life jacket. It could lose its effectiveness.
  • Check your life jackets yearly for flotation and fit.
  • Wear a life jacket to set an example for younger children while increasing your chances of survival.
  • Make the Memorial Day holiday a gift-giving event - buy your boating children and (or) grandchildren a PFD fitted to their size at the beginning of each boating season. Children need special care because of changing size and distribution of body weight.

Children and Boating Safety

Boating Safety "Sidekicks" introduces kids to the world of boating with safety in mind and with the hope of developing a lifelong love and respect for boating.

Boat Safety Tips and Fun Activities for Kids - video to learn boat safety tips and fun activities for kids.

Boating Safety and the Environment

Most boating safety information only includes direct threats caused by equipment failure, weather, alcohol, unsafe boating, or accidents. We think that boaters should also think about their family's health and safety from the perspective of environmental threats and clean boating activities. Visit our clean boating activities area to learn more.


For more information on boating safety and boating courses, contact your State Boating Agency, Coast Guard District or call the Boating Safety Hotline (1-800-368-5647).

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) has a representative responsible for boating safety education in each state, Click here to find your state's representative.

Life is better with a boat! Watch the "Good Run" a short film directed by Academy Award winning director Wally Pfister, that celebrates memories made taking life's journey by boat.

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