In 1999, a total of 907 boating accidents were reported to the Department, involving 491 injuries, 42 fatalities, and $2,864,000 in property damage.
Operator inexperience (39%) was the most common cause of boating accidents, followed by operator inattention (31%), and excessive speed (25%). Another 15% were caused by hazardous weather/water. (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
Accidents involving personal watercraft (PWC) have decreased substantially which appears to be attributable primarily to two new laws that took effect in January 1998. Since these laws took effect, PWC-related accidents have decreased from 391 in 1997 to 264 in 1999, a 32% decrease.
Note: Adverse weather conditions in 1998 accounted for an unusually low number of accidents, including accidents involving PWC. We believe the 1999 PWC-related accident totals more clearly represent the effect of these laws.
Open motorboats were involved in 48% of all accidents. PWC were involved in 29%.
36% of all vessels and 71% 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 vessels owners.
69% of vessels involved in all accidents were less than 26 feet in length; 86% of vessels involved in fatal boating accidents were less than 26 feet in length.
36% 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 (40%) occurred on lakes, followed by ocean/bay waters (34%).
Of operators whose ages were known, those in the 21-30 age group were involved
in more accidents than any other age group, followed by the 31-40 age group.
Accounting for 18% of registered vessels, PWC were involved in 29% of all accidents, 44% of all injuries, 14% of all fatalities and 16% 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 32% since January 1998. Trends contributing to this result:
Accidents involving youths operating all types of vessels have decreased 48%.
PWC accidents involving radical maneuvers (such as wake jumping, donuts, and spraying other vessels) have decreased 34%.
69% of PWC accidents resulted from collisions with other vessels.
In PWC collisions with another vessel, the other vessel was most often another PWC (67%).
34% 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 (66%), excessive speed (52%), and operator inattention (51%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
PWC operators in the 11-20 and the 21-30 age groups were involved in more accidents than any other age groups.
71% of PWC involved in accidents were operated by someone other than the
registered owner (52% were borrowed and 19% were rented).
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 48%, from 120 in 1997 to 63 in 1999.
During the 1999 boating season, a total of 73 youth operators were involved in 7% of all accidents, 11% of all injuries, and 5% of all fatalities.
28 operators involved in accidents (38%) were under the age of 16. Four of those operators were under the age of 12.
Of the 28 operators under 16 years of age, 79% did not have an adult on board.
Collisions with other vessels accounted for 83% of accidents involving youth operators.
Most of the collisions involved youth operators colliding with adult operators (81%).
In collisions between youth and adult operators, youth operators were more likely to be exclusively at fault.
Operator inexperience was a factor in 78% of accidents involving youth operators and was the most common cause of accidents involving them. Operator inexperience was a factor in only 39% of accidents involving operators of all ages.
92% of youth operators involved in accidents were operating PWC.
Of the 42 fatalities in 1999, 38% occurred during May and June. 43% occurred on weekends.
13 victims (31%) were involved in fishing-related activities.
Over half (55%) of vessels involved in fatal accidents were open motorboats, 14% of vessels involved in fatal accidents were PWC.
The majority (86%) of vessels involved in fatal accidents were less than 26 feet in length.
The most common causes of fatalities were operator inexperience (40%), hazardous weather/water conditions (36%), and operator inattention (36%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
62% of the victims drowned. Of that group, 88% were not wearing a life jacket.
Capsizing was the most common type of fatal accident (43%), followed by collisions with vessels (19%).
Operators in the 41-50 age group were involved in more fatal boating accidents than any other age group.
38% of fatalities occurred on lakes. Another 31% occurred on oceans/bays.
21% of boating fatalities were found to be alcohol-related, where testing could be conducted.
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