Boating accident causes are many. Collisions with other vessels is a common accident cause as are fires usually happening when refueling the boat. Skier accidents are all to common as well. The insurance companies regularly issue statistics on accident causes. It is surprising how many boats end up colliding with fixed objects that include piers, wharves, jetties and bridges, pilings and navigation marks or channel marker posts.
One of the most common accident areas is when boats approach jetties, ramps and wharves and this makes up a significant number of insurance claims. Going too fast, inattention, lack of situational awareness, lack of competence, poor communication and so it goes on. Boat handling skills are a major cause of incidents, generally most boaters have minimal experience or understanding of boat handling characteristic, the majority have never done any training. They also don’t have any understanding of current, tidal and wind factors when maneuvering a boat. Usually it’s one person in a boat with skills and the rest not so much.
Some useful 2020 statistics compiled by the USCG that make sobering reading and these are based on where data was known. The USCG report is extremely detailed and informative. Some salient points are that 75% of all fatal boating accidents were the result of drowning and 86% of those people who perished were not wearing a life jacket. Eight of ten people who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length. Alcohol was the leading contributary cause at 18% of deaths. 77% of deaths where on boats where the operator had not received any instruction or training. As mentioned above, there were 247 accidents of propeller strike resulting in 39 deaths and 241 injuries.
Top factors were inattention by the operator, inexperienced operators, failure to maintain a proper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure. What was interesting for me were 48 accidents, 8 deaths and 19 injuries resulting from electrical system failure. There were 199 accidents with 8 deaths and 52 injuries. Another concerning one was auxiliary equipment failure, unspecified what it was, with 71 accidents, 4 deaths and 15 injuries.
Exclusions included self-inflicted death and injuries, or persons that are victims of assault. Some that remain highly relevant are when a person is injured or killed or goes missing as a result jumping, diving or swimming from an anchored, moored or docked vessel. The same applies when swimming to retrieve an object or a vessel, such as a tender. Damages, injury and death as a result of storms or weather or unusual tidal or sea states, or when a vessel gets underway in such conditions to rescue others. Another one is casualties resulting from falls from docked vessels. Casualties arising out of a person boarding an anchored vessel from the water or swimming near a vessel. So actual statistics are much higher. Someone died in October 2021 in Sydney Australia doing just that, having a simple swim out to an anchored yacht. You can have a boating accident so easily if not paying attention. Boating safety starts with you.