Importance of safety stressed as boating season hits full stride

Water safety programs and agencies are reminding boaters of the need to have proper safety gear on board as the weather warms and boating becomes more popular.
Water safety programs and agencies are reminding boaters of the need to have proper safety gear on board as the weather warms and boating becomes more popular. Staff file, 2014

With the boating season hitting full swing during this holiday weekend, agencies and organizations are urging boaters to make sure their passengers and watercraft are safe.

At the top of the list is the importance of wearing life jackets.

Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard for 2015 show drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities. Going further, of those who drowned, 85 percent were not wearing life jackets.

Overall last year, Washington ranked fourth in the nation with 29 boating deaths. Florida was tops with 52 deaths, followed by California (48) and Texas (44). Washington was tied with Tennessee for 10th in the nation for the number of boating accidents. Both states reported 107 boating accidents in 2015.

In terms of casualties nationally, there were 626 deaths and 2,613 injuries as a result of 4,158 accidents. The number of deaths were up 2.6 percent from 2014, injuries were down 2.4 percent and accidents were up 2.3 percent.

Here is a look at some of the other numbers from the report:

Fatality rate: The rate in 2015 was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational watercraft, up 1.9 percent from the 2014 rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 vessels. There were more than 11.8 million boats registered nationwide last year.

Importance of education: Where investigators were able to determine if instruction was known, 71 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, according to the report. Just 15 percent of deaths occurred where the operator had received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.

Don’t drink and boat: Alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, the report said. Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of all boating deaths. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 11 accidents in Washington last year, leading to five deaths and 12 injuries.

Open motorboats: The report showed that these types of boats were involved in 45 percent of the boating accidents nationwide, and accounted for 46 percent of the deaths where the type of vessel was known.

Washington stats: The 107 accidents in the state last year resulted in 29 deaths and 59 injuries, while causing $764,000 in damage. While the number of total accidents fell 12.3 percent compared with 2014, the number of deaths rose 31.8 percent from the previous year. Of the state’s 29 boating fatalities last year, 22 were attributed to drowning. With 228,528 registered vessels last year, Washington’s boating fatality rate was 12.7 per 100,000 vessels, well above the national rate of 5.3 per 100,000 in 2015 and up from the 2014 rate of 9.7 per 100,000.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

Learn more

The stats: Download the U.S. Coast Guard recreational boating report at uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.php.

Loaner life jackets: Washington State Parks’ Boater Safety Program, and its partners, offer free loaner life jackets at nearly 20 South Sound locations and others statewide. Learn more at parks.state.wa.us/956/Life-Jacket-Loaner-Program.