Page 13 - Mid America Boating - August 2021 issue
P. 13

2020 U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety

                                                                            Statistics reveal pandemic affected boating                                     13

                                                                            in ways just beginning to be understood


                                                                              The U.S. Coast Guard recently released the 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics, and reports of acci-
                                                                            dents, fatalities and injuries were significantly up over the prior year. While still under review, the
                                                                            Coast Guard believes that the primary driving factor for the significant increase in deaths was the sig-
                                                                            nificant increase in boating activity. The nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean  [     MID-AMERICA BOATING
                                                                            Water looked at some select data points in the report and offers some lessons for the future, long after
                                                                            America has put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
                                                                              A change in the top five reasons for accidents: In 2020, the top five reported contributing factors
                                                                            in accidents were 1. operator inattention, 2. operator inexperience, 3. improper lookout, 4. excessive
                                                                            speed and 5. machinery failure. “Machinery failure,” at number five on the list, is new for 2020. While
                                                                            it is only a single data point, it likely indicates that a well-maintained boat is also a safer vessel. “One
                                                                            could reasonably assume that first-time boat owners are understandably inexperienced in boat main-
                                                                            tenance, and some boat owners likely had difficulty getting service during the pandemic,” said BoatUS
                                                                            Foundation President Chris Edmonston. He also noted that, “With the limited manufacturer supply of
                                                                            new boats available, some older, less seaworthy boats were probably on the water that otherwise
                                                                            would not have been.”                                                           ]     AUGUST 2021
                                                                              Operator inattention and improper lookout never change: Some may attribute the No. 1 and No.
                                                                            3 reasons for accidents in 2020 solely to first-time boat owners, perhaps giving more experienced
                                                                            boaters a “pass.” However, to do so would be a mistake. These two factors have remained consistent
                                                                            across many years of Coast Guard reporting indicating perhaps, for experienced boaters, there is
                                                                            always room to improve boating safety.
                                                                              Carrying more passengers aboard: In 2020, the Coast Guard Report noted 5,265 accidents, 767
                                                                            deaths and 3,191 injuries. That represents a one-year increase of 26%, 25% and 25% respectively. While
                                                                            not directly acknowledged in the report, Edmonston notes that when boats did head out in 2020, they
                                                                            did so not only with more frequency but also with more passengers aboard. “In 2020, boating provid-
                                                                            ed the respite that many families needed, and no one was left at home alone on Saturday. With more
                                                                            aboard, however, there is likely an increase in the potential for injuries in any single accident.”
                                                                              The access and congestion issues: Another effect of the pandemic was the temporary loss of
                                                                            waterway access, as some states and localities were driven by public health concerns to reduce park
                                                                            or launch ramp staff. “Limiting access increased congestion and user conflict in the vicinity of those
                                                                            remaining open,” said Edmonston. “What we have learned is that like many other pandemic-affected
                                                                            outdoor activities, we need to find ways to keep access open. Perhaps technology, such as automat-
                                                                            ed access, could help in the future.” MAB


































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