Thursday, June 1, 2017

Boating-relate fatalties ticked upward in 2016

In its annual review of recreational boating accidents and fatalities the U.S. Coast Guard is reporting a jump in the numbers.

Nationally last year, reports the Coast Guard, 701 people died in recreational boating mishaps. That is a 12-percent increase from the number reported in 2015, the Coast Guard says.

Too, in the past two decades the year with the most boating-related fatalities nationally was 1997 which recorded 821 such deaths. The least was in 2013 with 560 such deaths.

In Ohio, the Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft says the state saw 12 recreational boating deaths last year, a drop of one victim from 2015’s report of 13 such fatalities. To date this year the Parks and Watercraft Division is reporting two fatalities, each from a hand-powered platform such as canoes and kayaks.

Also, since at least 2014 all of Ohio’s boating-related deaths were males. Likewise, since 2005 Ohio has experienced 163 recreational boating-related fatalities of which only 10 were female.

As to where in 2015 boating-related deaths occurred in Ohio, inland lakes saw five fatalities, three in rivers, three in Lake Erie and one in a “pond.” For 2016, the numbers were seven, one, four, and zero, respectively.

The most recent high water mark for boating-related fatalities in Ohio was in 2014 when the Parks and Watercraft Division reported 22 deaths.  And since 2005 only one year has seen boating-related fatalities dip into single digits; that year being 2009 with nine fatalities.

Also, the Parks and Recreation Division says that for 2016 the accumulative cost of vessel damage caused by boating-related accidents amounted to $562,150 while another $178,417 was associated with other property damage.

Adding fuel to the fire that recreational boating accidents and fatalities are arguably preventable in most cases the Coast Guard report found that in 2016 fully 80 percent of the fatalities were the result of drowning. And of this figure, 83 percent of the victims were not wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

“In regards to the primary contributing factors of boating accidents, six of the top 10 are directly related to the behavior or actions of the operator,” said also Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard’s Ninth Coast Guard District headquarters in Cleveland.

 Baron said that operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Meanwhile, some 73 percent of the fatalities showed that vessel’s operator did not have any formal safe-boating instruction, the Coast Guard’s report says.

“It’s the operator’s responsibility to always practice good risk management and provide for the safety of passengers and safety of fellow boaters,” Baron said.

The Top Five Continental U.S. states with reported boating-related fatalities in 2016 – based on the Coast Guard’s report – were Florida – 59; Texas – 48; California – 43; Michigan – 38; and Louisiana - 23.

The Top Five Continental U.S. states with the fewest number of boating-related fatalities in 2016 were: Vermont, North Dakota and Delaware with just one each; and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia with no such fatalities each.

As for how the various Great Lakes states fared in terms of boating-related fatalities and injuries in 2016, Baron said that the numbers for the Ninth District included: Illinois had 74 reported boating accidents with nine fatalities and 40 injured people; Indiana had 40 reported boating accidents with seven fatalities and 27 injured people; Michigan had 125 reported boating accidents with 38 fatalities and 65 injured people; Minnesota had 96 reported boating accidents with 17 fatalities and 72 injured people; New York had 188 reported boating accidents with 22 fatalities and 149 injured people; Ohio had 113 reported boating accidents with 12 fatalities and 55 injured people; Pennsylvania had 55 reported boating accidents with 11 fatalities and 33 injured people; Wisconsin had 103 boating accidents with 20 fatalities and 72 injured people.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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