More than 5,000 boating accidents occur each year in the U.S., causing $62.5 million in damages.
Boating fatalities increased by 25.1% during the COVID pandemic.
The U.S. Coast Guard revealed that there were 658 boating fatalities nationwide in 2021, a 14% decrease from the 767 deaths in 2020.
From 2020 to 2021, the total number of accidents decreased 16% (5,265 to 4,439), and the number of non-fatal injured victims decreased 17% (3,191 to 2,641).
Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2021, accounting for 86 deaths, or 16% of total fatalities.
The fatality rate was 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
In 1971, when the Safe Boating Act was first passed, the fatality rate was 20.6 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
Property damage totaled $67.5 million, an all-time high.
Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
Lack of boating safety education accounts for 77% of fatal accidents on boats.
86% of victims of drowning weren't wearing a life jacket.
Most boating accidents take place in calm waters.
Boat propeller accidents increased by 44% during COVID-19.
6.5 per 100,000 vessels
5.2 per 100,000 vessels
5.3 per 100,000 vessels
Boating industry & boating accident statistics
In the United States, boating is a popular pastime and recreation. According to statista.com, “About 86 million people in the U.S. went boating in 2018” (Boating Industry Association).
That’s a lot of people enjoying time on the water! However, with so many people boating, there are bound to be accidents. The U.S. Coast Guard keeps track of these accidents and compiles statistics on them. Let’s take a look at some interesting boating statistics and boating accident statistics from 2018…
How many boats are there in the U.S?
Boats are a popular form of recreational transportation in the United States. According to estimates, there are more than 14 million boats registered in the USA, representing close to a quarter of the world’s total number.
It's no wonder when you consider the vast coastlines and countless lakes and rivers across the country. The types of boats vary widely- from large yachts used for long ocean voyages, to smaller powerboats for day trips or fishing excursions, to dinghies and sailboats for shorter cruises or leisurely sailing. Whatever your need or preference, there is sure to be a boat that is perfect for you!
Boating accident statistics & facts
According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, over 4,000 recreational boating accidents occur each year in the US, resulting in over 500 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries.
The leading causes of these tragedies include capsizing or overturning, collisions with other vessels or fixed objects, grounding a vessel on land or underwater object and flooding/swamping a vessel due to on-board water ingestion.
All of these dangers can be minimized through boater education and adherence to basic safety rules such as wearing life jackets and avoiding alcohol.
Avoiding distractions while operating a vessel is also important - 80% of fatal accident victims were not wearing life jackets and almost 20% of all fatalities involve alcohol consumption by operators or passengers. Boating safely can not only protect our waterways but it can also save lives!
Did you know that 86% of drowning victims weren't wearing any life jacket?
Life Jacket Worn
Life Jacket Not Worn
Recreational boating in the U.S. statistics
There are 11.96 million registered recreational boating vessels in the U.S.
There are 11.1 million registered recreational boating vessels mechnically propelled in the U.S.
Florida is the U.S. state with the highest number of registered recreational boating vessels.
There are 18.6 million U.S. kayaking participants.
There are 9.6 million U.S. canoeing participants.
There aer 3.46 million U.S. sailing participants.
2020 boating statistics
In 2020, the Coast Guard counted 5,265 accidents that involved 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries and around $62.5 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
Compared to 2019, the number of accidents increased 26.3%, the number of deaths increased 25.1%, and the number of injuries increased 24.7%.
Where cause of death was known, 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned.
Where length was known, 8 out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.
Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Where instruction was known, 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 12% percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.
There were 247 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller.
The 11,838,188 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2020 represent a 0.34% decrease from last year when 11,878,542 recreational vessels were registered.
Boating fatality rate chart
Safety tips for avoiding a boating accident
Boating is a great way to enjoy your time outdoors and on the water, but it also comes with certain risks. To prevent a boating accident from ruining your summer weekend, there are several safety tips that should be followed.
Before setting out for a day of fun, make sure you inspect the boat thoroughly for any potential problems with the steering or motor and check for current weather advisories and forecasts.
While out on the water, have someone designated to watch the horizon at all times and practice defensive boating by staying aware of other vessels and marine debris such as logs in your path.
Follow all local speed limits and by having enough life jackets aboard as required by law; this will give you peace of mind that everyone is prepared in case of an emergency. With these simple safety precautions, nothing will stop you from having an enjoyable day of boating!
Shocking boating accident facts
Boating is a fun and enjoyable activity that millions of Americans take part in every year. Despite its appeal, the reality is that boating does come with some risks, and often these risks can have serious lasting impact.
Statistics show that there were an estimated 4,291 recreational boating accidents involving 2,559 vessels in the United States in 2019, causing 613 deaths and 2,559 injuries unprecedented.
Alcohol use remains the leading contributing factor of fatalities in reported accidents (21%). In addition to operator inexperience and machinery malfunctions being two other primary factors for accidents on the water.
A special note should be made to those who are still new to boating; all states require a specific education requirement to operate a boat, including basics such as operator laws, safe operation practices and regulations.
Boat owners must also meet registration requirements - this includes registering their vessel with the federal government. This may sound like an extra step – but it could literally mean the difference between life or death on the water each season.
How many boating accidents happen per year?
Over 5,000 boating accidents occur each year in the U.S.
What is the main cause of fatal boating accidents?
Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known.
What are the odds of dying on a boat?
The U.S. boating fatality rate is 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
How many boats sink a year?
211 boats sank in the U.S. in 2020.
Which state has the most boating accidents?
In 2020, states with the highest number of boating accidents were Florida, North Carolina, and Texas.
Wrapping it up
Being informed about boating statistics can help you be a better, safer boat captain. There are many boats in the United States and they come in all different shapes and sizes.
Boating accidents happen every year, but there are ways to avoid them. By following some simple safety tips, you can minimize your risk of being involved in a boating accident. Do you have any other tips for staying safe on the water? Share them with us in the comments below!