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United States Coast Guard Auxiliary - Public Affairs

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National Safe Boating Week - May 21-27, 2022 Banner

The United States Coast Guard (USCG), the 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.”

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All figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2020 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents. Full report available: The U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division.

2020 Executive Summary

In calendar year 2020, the Coast Guard counted 5,265 accidents that involved 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries and approximately $62.5 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

There is evidence that boating activity rose significantly during the pandemic, from reports ofEPIRB Image increased boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims, and calls for towing assistance. The Coast Guard is analyzing variables associated with boating activity to normalize accident data. Numerous states cited difficulties registering boats due to office closures during the pandemic.

The Coast Guard did not perform any statistical adjustments to state figures. The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 25% increase from the 2019 fatality rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

Compared to 2019, the number of accidents increased 26.3%, the number of deaths increased 25.1%, and the number of injuries increased 24.7%. Where cause of death was known, 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.

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Where length was known, eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels lessthan 21 feet in length. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 18% of deaths. Where instruction was known, 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 12% percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator was known to have received a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.

There were 247 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 39 deaths and 241 injuries. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were

  • open motorboats (46%),
  • personal watercraft (22%), and
  • cabin motorboats (13%).

Where data was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were

  • open motorboats (50%),
  • kayaks (15%), and
  • pontoons (9%).

The 11,838,188 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2020 represent a 0.34% decrease from last year when 11,878,542 recreational vessels were registered.

Recreational Boating Statistices 2020 (

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.
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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.

For more information and detail on the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan goto

Feel free to use the National Safe Boating Week Audio PSAs for your local area.

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Boating Safety Tips 

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.