WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWLP)– The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has released their recreational boating statistics from 2021 and they show a 14% decrease in boating fatalities across the country.

According to the report, there were 658 boating fatalities nationwide in 2021 compared to 767 in 2020. They also found that the the total number of accidents decreased from 5,265 to 4,439, and the number of non-fatal injured victims decreased from 3,191 to 2,641.

   The data also shows that in 2021:

  • The fatality rate was 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.  This rate represents a 15 percent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 6.5 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, which is 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. Alcohol continued to be the leading factor in fatal boating accidents in 2021, accounting for 86 deaths.

Most accidents happened during good weather conditions with calm waters, no or light wind, and good visibility.

Where the cause of death was known, 81 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned.  Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket.  

“A life jacket is one of the most important safety items on your boat,” said Capt. Troy Glendye, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. “It is critical to wear one when underway as it may be difficult to don in an emergency. The Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, correctly fastened, and suitable for your activity.”

Where boating instruction was known, 75 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.  The Coast Guard encourages all boaters to take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards.

The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats.  Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (44 percent), kayaks (15 percent), and pontoons (10 percent).  This is the second time that pontoon vessels ranked in the top three.

To view the 2021 Recreational Boating Statistics report and additional information on boating responsibly, visit the USCG website.