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The U.S. Coast Guard collects pleasure boat accident information and compiles the
statistics in an annual report. It receives this information from reports, which according
to 33 CFR 173.55, must be filed whenever there is a boating accident in which someone
dies, someone is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid, damage to
vessels and property meets or exceeds $2,000 (or there is a complete loss of a vessel),
or someone disappears from a vessel under circumstances indicating death or injury.

The 46th annual report, (Commandant Publication P16754.18) shows an overall
downward trend in the number of boating accidents, boating fatalities, and boating
injuries per 100,000 registered boats in the period from 1994 to 2004. There are a few
instances where the figures increase from the year before…but overall, the trend seems
encouraging….especially since during those same years, the number of registered
boats increased from 11,429,585 to 12,781,476.

Figures are summarized in the table below (partially) and in the graph reproduced from
Commandant Publication P16754.18.


In its report, the Coast Guard does not include recreational boating accidents:

1.  involving less than $2,000 of damage, limited to property only
2.  involving only slight injury not requiring medical treatment beyond first aid
3.  which were not caused or contributed to by a vessel, its equipment, or appendages
4.  where a person died or was injured from natural causes while aboard a vessel
5. where a person died or was injured while swimming to retrieve an object or a vessel
that was adrift from its mooring or dock, having departed from the shore or pier
6. involving damage, injury, or death on a docked or moored vessel that resulted from
storms, unusual tidal, sea or swell conditions; or when a vessel got underway in those
conditions in an attempt to rescue persons put in peril.
7.  where a person died or was injured while swimming for pleasure from a vessel that
was not underway (where the vessel was anchored, moored, or docked). In those cases,
the vessel was being used as a platform for other activities, such as swimming or diving,
and was not involved in any event that contributed to the casualty.

In its executive summary, the Coast Guard highlights keypoints from its data and
information. Although one is happy to see a decline in the number of pleasure boating
accidents than previous years, the losses are regrettable and in some instances could
have been avoided with something so fundamental as a PFD.

In summary, the 4,904 boating accidents reported in 2004 resulted in 676 fatalities, 3,363
injuries, and $35,038,306 in property damage. Approximately 70% of all fatal boating
accident victims who drowned were not wearing their personal flotation device (PFD).
Data showed that 431 lives could have been saved in 2004 if boaters had worn their life

From “You’re In Command - Boat Responsibly” Boating Statistics 2004 - United States
Coast Guard; Commandant Publication P16754.18

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Pleasure Boat Accident Statistics
Boating Accident Reporting Requirements - Boating Accident Resources - Jet Ski Accidents - Boating Accident Legal
How not to become a boating accident statistic?
Conduct a vessel inspection. Check safety
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safety-boating accident prevention in an article by
the USCG.
type of accident involved
collision with another
vessel. Capsizing and falls
overboard were the most
reported types of fatal
accidents and accounted
for over half of all boating
fatalities. The Coast Guard
points out that boat
operators need to pay
attention to the capacity
label on their boats and be
careful not to overload
small boats with passenger
and gear.
reckless operation, operator
inattention, operator
inexperience, and excessive
speed are the lead
contributing factors of all
reported boating accidents.
It also found that the most
common types of boats
involved in reported
accidents were open
motorboats (42%), personal
watercraft (25%) and cabin
motorboats (15%).
Increases were observed in
the number of number of
reported fatalies involving
pontoon boats (27), canoes
and kayaks (98) from 2003.
The Coast Guard noted a
decrease in the number of
fatalities involving cabin
motorboats (42) from the
fatalities reported in 2003.