Boating Safety Improves Nationally Despite Record Numbers of New Boaters


The 2021 Recreational Boating Statistics Report from the U.S. Coast Guard shows a marked improvement in boating safety, notable during a time when boating sales and participation figures have reached a historic high among first time boat owners. The reason? The Water Sports Foundation credits increased boat safety course enrollment. 

“At the beginning of the pandemic sales were increasing, but in-person safety courses had to be discontinued for obvious reasons,” says Emmons. “However, most every boating safety course provider pivoted quickly and began offering their courses online utilizing virtual education technology. Many of the course providers shared with me directly that after they offered their courses online, they saw an attendance spike in their enrollments.”

The report shows a 15.4% drop in the fatality rate per 100,000 registered vessels since 2020, a 15.7% decrease in incidents, a 14.2% decrease in total fatalities, and a 17.2% decrease in total injuries. “The importance of boating safety and education is clearly validated by this year’s report,” adds Emmons. “It has a real impact when it comes to reducing incidents and fatalities.” 

Alcohol was identified as the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating incidents. Also, of drowning victims, which makes up 81% of fatal boating incident victims, 83% were not wearing a life jacket.

“Boating is one of the safest forms of recreation out there, but the data reconfirms to me that deaths associated with not wearing a life jacket and alcohol are among the most preventable,” says Paul Barnard, Recreational Boating Safety Program specialist, U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District. “It gives us a great sense of urgency to educate boaters and give them the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe.”

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