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National Safe Boating Week

"Every year, more than 70 million Americans participate in recreational boating. Recreational boating has significant economic impacts and is an important part of the American heritage and culture.

"The United States Coast Guard (USCG), states, industry, organizations, and other members of the recreational boating safety community are pleased to report that boating is becoming safer over time. Since 1971, the year the United States Congress authorized creation of the National Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) Program, the estimated number of recreational boats has more than doubled, while the number of reported boating casualties (the sum of deaths and injuries) has decreased by more than 50%. While this trend is impressive, more can be done. No one expects that someone in their family or community will be injured or killed in a boating accident. Yet each year, lives are still lost, adults and children are injured, and property is damaged. The good news is that by increasing boaters’ preparedness, safety education, and awareness, we can continue to decrease risk and evolve a culture of safety."


All figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents. Full report available: The U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division.

Key Facts

  • Drowning was reported as the cause of death in 76% of all fatalities (four out of five people died from drowning).

  • Approximately 86% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

  • In 2019, the Coast Guard counted 4,168 accidents that involved 613 deaths, 2,559 injuries and approximately $55 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

  • The fatality rate was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 1.9% decrease from the 2018 fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

  • Only 14% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.

  • Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure and alcohol use as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. 

  • Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 19% of deaths. Where data was known, the most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were:

    • Open motorboats (45%), 

    • Personal watercraft (19%)

    • Cabin motorboats (16%)

Data Snapshot:

  • Fatalities 613 

  • Drownings: 449 

  • Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 2,559

  • Boating accidents: 4,168 

  •  Property damage: $55,000,000.00 

  •  Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 11,878,542

Despite historic reductions in fatality rates over the past 45 years, there are still significant opportunities for improvement. While most members of the boating public practice safe boating behaviors, gaps in individual preparedness and situational awareness remain. To advance the culture shift toward even safer recreational boat operator behavior, this plan includes three major priorities: 

  1. Cultivate a boating public that is better prepared to engage in safer boating behaviors,

  2. Make better informed policy decisions by building and using highly integrated systems to gather and evaluate data from many sources, and 

  3. Nurture collaborative efforts among the stakeholders that benefit the boating public within the recreational boating safety community.

Ownership of this Plan

Federal law (46 U.S.C. 13110) mandated that the Secretary of the Department of which the USCG is operating establish the National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) and consult with it on regulations and other major boating safety matters.

The National Boating Safety Advisory Council's 21 members are drawn from the states, industry and national recreational boating organizations, and the public. 

The United States Coast Guard plan was developed collaboratively with the members of the NBSAC and additional stakeholders of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. All who want to decrease deaths and injuries of recreational boaters are invited to support this plan.

This is an official United States Coast Guard Auxiliary website for the public’s information. Our postings do not endorse this site or anything on it, including links to other sites, and we disclaim responsibility and liability for the site and its content.