2000 Boating Accident Summary Statistics
Overall Boating Accident Highlights
In 2000, a total of 906 boating accidents were reported to the Department, involving 524 injuries, 51 fatalities, and $3,038,400 in property damage.
Operator inexperience (42%) was the most common cause of boating accidents, followed by operator inattention (32%), and excessive speed (24%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
Accidents involving personal watercraft (PWC) increased from 264 in 1999 to 293 in 2000. The total number of PWC-related accidents, however remains well below the 391 which occurred in 1997, prior to two new laws that took effect in January 1998. The continued reduction in the number of PWC-related accidents appears to be attributable primarily to these laws.
Open motorboats were involved in 51% of all accidents. PWC were involved in 32%.
38% of all vessels and 67% of PWC involved in accidents were operated by someone other than the registered owner. These findings demonstrate the need to emphasize boating education for all vessel operators as well as vessel owners.
73% of vessels involved in all accidents were less than 26 feet in length. 89% of vessels involved in fatal boating accidents were less than 26 feet in length.
38% of reported accidents resulted from collisions with other vessels.
Accidents occurred mostly during the summer months (May through September), on weekends, during the hours between 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. The largest number of accidents (50%) occurred on lakes, followed by ocean/bay waters (28%).
Of operators whose ages were known, those in the 31-40 age group were involved in more accidents than any other age group, followed by the 21-30 age group.
20% of boating accidents occurred during the summer holiday weekends of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
16% of boating accidents occurred during water skiing activities. In this report, the term water skiing refers to all activities involving a vessel towing a person on a towline.
PWC Accident Statistics
Accounting for 19% of registered vessels, PWC were involved in 32% of all accidents, 45% of all injuries, 12% of all fatalities and 14% of all property damage.
In January 1998, two laws impacting PWC operators took effect. The first law raised the minimum age to operate a vessel over 15 horsepower from 12 to 16 years of age. Since the PWC is the vessel of choice for the vast majority of youth operators, we believe that this law has decreased the number of PWC-related accidents. A second law that prohibited activities such as wake jumping within 100 feet of another vessel, spraying down other vessels and playing "chicken" with another vessel has also had a positive impact on PWC-related accidents.
Accidents involving PWC have decreased 25% since January 1998. Trends contributing to this result:
Accidents involving youths operating all types of vessels have decreased 33%.
PWC accidents involving radical maneuvers (such as wake jumping, donuts, and spraying other vessels) have decreased 33%.
67% of PWC accidents resulted from collisions with other vessels.
In PWC collisions with another vessel, the other vessel was most often another PWC (64%).
31% of all PWC-related collisions involved operators who knew each other and were boating together.
The most common cause of PWC-related accidents involved operator inexperience (61%), excessive speed (50%), and operator inattention (42%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
PWC operators in the 11-20 age group were involved in more accidents than any other age group followed by the 21-30 age group.
67% of PWC involved in accidents were operated by someone other than the registered owner (45% were borrowed and 22% were rented).
Youth Accident Statistics (Youth is under 18 years of age)
Since January 1998, when the minimum age to operate a vessel over 15 HP alone was raised from 12 to 16 years of age, the number accidents involving youth operators has decreased 33%, from 120 in 1997 to 80 in 2000.
During the 2000 boating season, a total of 94 youth operators were involved in 9% of all accidents, 14% of all injuries, and 6% of all fatalities.
47 operators involved in accidents (50%) were under the age of 16. Six of those operators were under the age of 12.
Of the 47 operators under 16 years of age, 74% did not have an adult on board.
Collisions with other vessels accounted for 68% of accidents involving youth operators.
Most of the collisions involved youth operators colliding with adult operators (74%).
In collisions between youth and adult operators, youth operators were more likely to be exclusively at fault.
Operator inexperience was a factor in 79% of accidents involving youth operators and was the most common cause of accidents involving them. Operator inexperience was a factor in only 42% of accidents involving operators of all ages.
89% of youth operators involved in accidents were operating a PWC.
Fatal Accident Statistics
Of the 51 fatalities in 2000, 47% occurred between May and September. 33% of all fatalities occurred on weekends.
25 victims (49%) were involved in fishing-related activities. 88% of those victims were not wearing life jackets.
Over half (54%) of vessels involved in fatal accidents were open motorboats, 15% were cabin motorboats, 13% were PWC and 13% were paddle craft.
The majority (89%) of vessels involved in fatal accidents were less than 26 feet in length.
The most common causes of fatalities were operator inattention (35%), operator inexperience (31%), and overloading/improper loading (20%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
78% of the victims drowned. Of that group, 80% were not wearing a life jacket.
Capsizing (29%) and falls overboard (29%) were the most common types of fatal accidents.
Operators in the 41-50 age group were involved in more fatal boating accidents than any other age group.
39% of fatalities occurred on lakes. Another 31% occurred on oceans/bays.
39% of boating fatalities were found to be alcohol-related, where testing could be conducted.