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Boat Driving Statistics That Can Save Your Life

boat accident statistics
Driver inattention remains the #1 cause of boating accidents

Boating accident statistics may be interesting to read, but they are just numbers unless you understand what they are telling you and apply it to your own personal situation.

If you take the time to understand their underlying direction and how to apply it to your boating skills, they could save your life.

To do that, let's clarify some of the most serious Coast Guard stats and identify how you should adjust your driving techniques to avoid becoming one of them.


The number one cause of boating accidents is inattention. Unlike other sports or other driving activities, boating is a comparatively low intensity activity, with interesting scenery to look at and opportunities to chat with fellow passengers. Such activities are only natural, but they are a subtle distraction to your responsibilities at the helm. When the unexpected happens, you need to be ready for it and be able to handle it professionally. This underlines the critical importance of avoiding the number one cause of accidents by paying attention to every detail that is happening around you while driving your boat.

If someone tries to help us while we are driving a car, we call them a "back seat driver." Boating is different because items in the water, and boat traffic on both sides, can easily be missed. Asking a passenger to watch for and advise you of such objects is both helpful and standard procedure. Usually you will have a passenger who is happy to oblige and the extra set of eyes is very helpful. Remind your first mate to scan for traffic and other obstacles by moving and focusing their eyes in segmented sections and not just a single sweep. "First Mates" have saved many a disaster when it comes to boating. A first mate, along with the mantra, "Pay Attention", will make you a smarter boater and keep you off the number one accident statistic list.


The number two cause of boating accidents might surprise you. But in fact, boating deaths occurred predominantly on vessels operated by individuals who never received boating safety or driving instruction. If you compare driving a boat to driving a motorcycle, car, or truck, the boat at first seems relatively simple. We all know how a throttle and steering wheel work, so how can boat driving be tricky? Despite this easy beginning, I can assure you that boat driving skills are complex and demanding. When a situation does develop, you need to have the necessary driving skills to avoid an accident. To learn these skills you need to have worked with a qualified driving instructor. Far too often, unqualified, well meaning parents and friends try to 'teach' a new boater, when they are not fully qualified themselves.


The number three factor contributing to boating accidents is alcohol. Drinking has been directly linked to up to 17% of fatal boat accidents. Interestingly, the regulations regarding alcohol consumption on boats varies between countries, as well as between boat types, so be sure to check online to understand the alcohol rules for boating in your area. Both the accident statistics and tight law enforcement penalties on alcohol are very scary, so abstaining is the safe choice.


Current statistics also tell us that last year, drowning accounted for up to 75% of boating deaths. While there is no rule against drowning, most of us agree that it is not a good thing and life jackets are your best protection. 87% of people who drowned while boating were not wearing one. But we know that few boaters wear a life jacket while boating, so how should we handle this dilemma? Every boater should recognize the importance of this statistic and every time they plan on getting into a boat be strong enough to consider and act on each individual situation. If you are not a strong swimmer, wear a life jacket. If you will be boating at night, wear a life jacket. If there is a small child onboard, wear a life jacket so that you can help them if needed. If the water turns choppy, put on a life jacket. If you are going to ride in a fast boat, wear a life jacket. When it comes to drowning, only smart personal decisions with life jackets each time you step into a boat can reduce drowning statistics. Remember that the highest number of fatal accidents involved events where people ended up in the water.

Looking at the frequency of different accidents stats tells us that the most frequent events involve collisions with objects, other vessels, or the bottom of the lake. This tells us to always know where you are and where you are going. Having a GPS, compass and chart onboard is not cheating. Becoming disoriented can happen to any boater, so when it does, switch into 'ultra caution mode’. Stop the boat and don't be afraid to ask for help. Remember, not every boater will read this article, so always keep a sharp eye on the actions of other boaters. Translating boat accident statistics to your personal driving habits is the best way to avoid problems.

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In Canada if you get caught boating while under the influence (.008 + above) not only do you lose your boating privileges but your lose your drivers license also!!!


The stats on alcohol are alarming but not surprising. The risks associated with drinking and boating are high, and it's crucial to understand and adhere to local regulations. Better safe than sorry. tunnel rush

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