If you are a boater like me, this harsh winter is giving you a serious case of cabin fever, as you dream about warmer weather and getting your boat back in the water. The United States Coast Guard maintains many statistics on boating safety, and a glance at their most recently available data should bring a smile to your lips, because it demonstrates that the most recent reporting shows the lowest number of fatalities on record, with an overall drop in accidents and injuries.

From 2011 to 2012, deaths in boating related accidents decreased 14.1%, from 758 to 651. During the same timeframe, injuries decreased by 2.6%, from 3081 to 3000, and the total reported recreational boating accidents decreased 1.6%, from 4588 to 4515.  The fatality rate for 2012 was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, reflecting a 12.9% decrease from the previous year’s rate of 6.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. The Coast Guard stresses the importance of life jacket wear, boating education courses and sober boating as factors in these positive statistics. It is unfortunate, but not unexpected, that alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. The top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents are operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed. A large percentage – almost 71 percent – of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and 84% of those victims were not reported as wearing a life jacket. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats.

Individuals who wish to operate a boat, including personal watercraft,  in New Jersey waters are obligated to successfully complete a boater safety course. Enforcement of this obligation is strict, and compliance with this obligation is a must.