Although there was a 20-year record of on-water fatalities in boating accidents across the country in 2020, there is a simple explanation for this, Coast Guard safety experts have said.
Quite simply, more boaters on the water means more incidents.
“We knew the numbers were going to change because the number of people sailing increased,” Mike Folkerts, boating safety specialist for Coast Guard District 17, said in a telephone interview. “A lot of people were working from home and could get out on the water a lot more. They would encourage people to go out and do that sort of thing.
According to the Coast Guard’s 2020 Boating Safety Statistical Report, 767 Americans died in boating crashes in 2020, up from 613 in 2019, the highest in 20 years. In Alaska, this trend also existed; with 24 deaths, it was the highest in half a decade. The bulk of the casualties involved operators by far without any formal boating training. Accidents in this report refer to everything from falling overboard to colliding with another ship to sinking.
” It’s a little difficult. Alaska is one of half-dozen states that don’t have mandatory boating safety courses, ”Folkerts said. “For the most part, people go out and learn on their own [or from family members]. They don’t always learn the best ways to stay safe on the water.
Nationally, injuries and accidents peaked in 10 and 17 years, respectively, much of which involved alcohol use. In Alaska, alcohol-related fatalities and crashes increased sharply from 2019 to 2020, from just one crash in each to five crashes causing six deaths.
“There are some boaters who combine drinking and being on the water. This is the component of boaters that we want out of the water, ”said Folkerts. “.08 is considered weakened. But they still have to pass field sobriety tests. We ramped up law enforcement a bit to make sure people were safe on the water, but that was pretty normal. ”
Dangerous conditions and inattention at the helm were also major causes of the mishap.
The largest group of deaths were among boaters over 55 and boaters who were alone on the ship, the data showed.
The largest number of accidents occurred in July, and the largest number of accidents occurred between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and on Saturdays. Open motorboats accounted for nearly half of all deaths, at 49%. Canoes and kayaks made up another 20%.
Alaska was one of 13 states that recorded more than 10 deaths per 100,000 registered vessels, according to the data.
Drowning was the leading cause of death, with 534 deaths, or about 75% of all deaths, although many of them had additional factors. Of those who drowned, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.
Boating safety lessons, life jackets, good weather planning and sobriety all contribute to a safe and enjoyable boating experience for all, Folkerts said.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.