Written by attorney R. Stephen Ferrell

Boating Accidents and Injuries--Facts and Figures

One of the most common types of recreational activities that people enjoy during the summer months is recreational boating on freshwater lakes and in the Gulf of Mexico. But, like all recreational activities, boating can sometimes result in accidents and injuries. Boating accidents come in a wide variety of categories. The cases may involve drownings or serious injuries to the operator or passengers in the boat. These cases could involve pleasure boats, private or commercial boats, deep sea or fresh water fishing boats, charter boats, dredging boats, ski boats, sailboats, jet skis, ferryboats, or cruise ships. A number of these accidents happen along the Texas Gulf Coast.

  • The Coast Guard received reports for a total of 6,419 recreational boating accidents in 2001. The casualty data for 2001 showed 681 fatalities and 4,274 injuries.

  • Four hundred and ninety-eight (498) boaters drowned in 2001. Life jackets could have saved the lives of approximately 420 boaters who drowned. In 2001, approximately eight out of every 10 victims in fatal boating accidents were not wearing life jackets. Boaters continue to be at a greater risk of dying when involved in an accident during the fall and winter months than in the summer. Besides the colder weather and water, there are fewer boaters and patrol officers in the area to rescue boaters in distress. When waters are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia can set in quickly. Those who hunt and fish from boats, especially in colder weather, need to dress for possible immersion and wear their life jackets. Boaters in larger bodies of water should also take advantage of using available distress alerting and position indicating technologies to improve their chances of survival if a mishap occurs.

  • Eighty-five (85) percent of fatalities occurred on boats less than 26 feet in length. Seventy-two (72) percent of those victims drowned. Specifically, 322 fatalities occurred on boats less than 16 feet in length and 254 occurred on boats 16 to less than 26 feet in length.

  • Alcohol involvement in fatal accidents accounted for thirty-four (34) percent of all boating fatalities — up eight (8) percent from 1999. A Coast Guard study estimates that boat operators with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent are estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to be killed in a boating accident than boat operators with zero blood alcohol concentration.

  • Approximately eighty (80) percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course.

  • Nearly 70 percent of all reported accidents involve operator controllable factors. The primary causes of accidents are operator inattention, careless/reckless operation, operator inexperience, operating at an unsafe speed, and no proper lookout.

  • “Capsizings" and “Falls Overboard" accounted for 386 fatalities, nearly sixty (60) percent of all reported boating fatalities. Nine out of every 10 of those victims drowned . “Collision with Another Vessel" was the most reported type of accident . These accidents resulted in 1,366 injuries and accounted for nearly nine (9) million dollars in property damage.

  • Twenty-six (26) children age 12 and under lost their lives while boating in 2001. One hundred and thirty-seven (137) boaters died in the 40-49 age group category — the highest number reported for any age group.

  • Three hundred and fifty-two (352) fatalities occurred with the use of open motorboats, just over half of all boating fatalities. One hundred and one (101) people lost their lives while using canoes/kayaks in 2001. Approximately ninety-three (93) percent of canoe/kayak deaths were caused by drowning. Fifty (50) fatalities occurred with the use of Personal Watercraft (PWC), the lowest number of PWC fatalities reported since 1993.

  • Approximately eighty (80) percent of all reported injuries were associated with the use of open motorboats (46%) and PWC (34%). Lacerations were the most reported type of injury for open motorboats. For PWC, broken bones were the most often reported type of injury.

The Ferrell Law Firm, P.C. is located in Houston, Texas, but we handle boating accidents throughout the Texas Gulf Coast, across Texas, and in other States. If you have been injured in a boating accident, contact the Ferrell Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation. We don’t charge a fee unless you make a recovery.

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