Jan. 11, 1999, WASHINGTON Â—The recently released U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Accident Report Database (BARD) shows 8,044 accidents occurred in 1997, the most ever reported by the United States, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. According to the database, the casualty data for 1997 show 819 fatalities, nearly $29 million in property damage and a record-high 4,555 injuries. The 819 fatalities are 110 more than those reported in 1996. Areas contributing to the 1997 increase include:
Â• 46 more fatalities occurred with the use of canoes and kayaks.
Â• 27 more fatalities were reported with the use of personal watercraft for an all-time high of 84.
Â• 104 more fatalities occurred with the use of boats under 26 feet in length.
Â• 100 more people died by capsizing their boat or falling overboard. These two types of accidents accounted for six out of every 10 boating fatalities.
Â• 32 more fatalities occurred where alcohol use was involved in the accident.
Â• 86 more boaters drowned in 1997 than in 1996; a total of 586 drowning victims. Approximately 9 out of 10 of those drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Â• Fatalities caused by reckless, inattentive and inexperienced boat operators were up in 1997. In fact, 87 more fatalities were reported on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course .
The state with the highest 1997 numbers, according to BARD, was Florida with 1,218 reported accidents, 1,777 boats in accidents, 67 fatalities, 759 reported injuries and more than $5.7 million in property damage. Ranking second in high numbers was California, with 925 reported accidents, 1,405 boats in accidents, 43 fatalities and 527 injuries.
Bruce Schmidt, statistician for the Coast Guard’s boating safety division, suggested boaters wear personal floatation devices at all times to decrease accidents in 1999. “Drowning will more than likely be prevented,” he said. The Coast Guard is also working closely with state agencies for boater education initiatives and implementing a campaign against drinking & boating. For more information call the Coast Guard’s Infoline at 800/368-5647.
Remember the following to help reduce accidents in future years.
- Wear a PFD when operating your boat
- Do not overload your boat
- Be cautious when standing in a small boat to prevent capsize or going overboard
- Be aware that the effects of alcohol are intensified when on the water . Use a designated skipper!
- Take a safe boating course such as The Nautical Know How Online Basic Boating Course
Don’t forget, you are legally responsible to report any accidents involving a death, disappearance, injury requiring more than first aid, and/or property damage exceeding $500 (many states have a lower threshhold).