The California Division of Boating and Waterways administers many programs to provide for boating safety on the State’s waterways. The 2005 California Boating Safety Report summarizes activities performed in three key safety program areas:
- Boating accident analysis
- Law enforcement
- Safety education.
This report also highlights the Department’s current program enhancements and future safety initiatives designed to reduce accidents and make California’s waterways safer.
Through the boating accident program, the Department provides useful accident information to boaters, law enforcement agencies, and educators. This information is communicated to the general public through the incorporation of relevant safety measures based on accident analysis into the Department’s safety education programs and law enforcement training programs. Exhibit E-1, below, provides a summary of key boating accident statistics for 2005.
The Department provides supplemental funding to counties for law enforcement activities and promotes uniform enforcement of boating laws through its law enforcement training program. In 2005, the financial aid program allocated $8.1 million to 36 counties and 2 cities for enforcement personnel and operating costs. In turn, the counties provided crucial boating law enforcement, as well as safety training for law enforcement officers and the public. Exhibit E-2, following Exhibit E-1, provides a summary of law enforcement activities supported by the Department’s financial aid program.
In 2005, the law enforcement training program included seven courses on various boating safety topics, in which Department staff trained 381 marine enforcement officers.
The Department’s safety education programs provided nearly two million individuals with boating safety training and materials.
On-going partnerships with educational institutions, aquatic centers, and non-profit organizations provided crucial safety information to students and the general public. Additionally, the Department sponsored a statewide radio and outdoor media campaign to promote life jacket use, environmental stewardship, and boating safety course participation. Exhibit E-3, following Exhibit E-2, provides a summary of the Department’s safety education outreach programs.
New programs developed in 2005 focus on improving public outreach and expanding law enforcement training. Enhancements to existing programs reflect changing accident statistics and key safety concerns. Exhibit E-4, following Exhibit E-3, presents a summary of 2005 program enhancements and initiatives.
2005 California Boating Accident Summary Statistics
Overall Boating Accident Highlights
- In 2005, boating accidents increased 8% from 2004. A total of 800 boating accidents were reported to the Department, involving 428 injuries, 58 fatalities, and $3,578,700 in property damage.
- About 39% of all vessels and 68% 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, not only vessel owners.
- Accidents occurred mostly during the summer months (May through September), on weekends, and during the hours between 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. The largest number of accidents (49%) occurred on lakes, followed by ocean/bay waters (31%).
- 18% of boating accidents, 18% of all injuries, and 17% of all fatalities occurred during the summer holiday periods of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
- 36% of reported accidents resulted from collisions with other vessels.
- Operator inattention (41%) was the most common cause of boating accidents, followed by operator inexperience (35%), and excessive speed (25%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
- Open motorboats were involved in 51% of all accidents. PWC were involved in 25%.
- 66% of vessels involved in all accidents were less than 26 feet in length. 80% of vessels involved in fatal boating accidents were also less than 26 feet in length.
- Of operators whose ages were known, those in the 21-30 age group were involved in more accidents than any other age group, followed closely by the 41-50 age group.
- Accidents involving water skiing activities accounted for 13% of all accidents. (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 25% of all accidents, 36% of all injuries, 12% of all fatalities, and 13% 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, prohibiting 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 48% since January 1998. Trends contributing to this result:
- Accidents involving youths operating all types of vessels have decreased 62%.
- PWC accidents involving radical maneuvers (such as wake jumping, donuts, and spraying other vessels) have decreased 58%.
Since changes in law noted above, and the resulting continued decrease of PWC-related accidents, the number of PWC accidents per hours under way has been approaching the rate for traditional vessels. In 2004, PWC were involved in fewer accidents than traditional vessels. The 2004 data revealed that:
- When controlled for hours under way, there would have been one accident for every 812 traditional vessels operating on California waterways, compared to one accident for every 924 PWC.
- 66% of PWC-related accidents and 42% of PWC-related fatalities resulted from collisions with other vessels.
- In PWC collisions with another vessel, the other vessel was most often another PWC (58%).
- The most common cause of PWC-related accidents involved operator inexperience (64%), operator inattention (56%), and excessive speed (54%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
- 29% of PWC operators were age 11-20 and were involved in more accidents than any other age group, followed closely by the 21-30 age group (28%)
- 68% of PWC involved in accidents were operated by someone other than the registered owner (52% were borrowed and 16% were rented).
Youth Accident Statistics
(Youth is under 18 years of age)
- Since January 1998, when the minimum age for solo operation of a vessel over 15 HP was raised from 12 to 16 years of age, the number of accidents involving youth operators has decreased 62%, from 120 in 1997 to 46 in 2005.
- During the 2005 boating season, a total of 57 youth operators were involved in 6% of all accidents and 10% of all injuries. There were no fatalities involving youth operators in 2005.
- 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 35% of accidents involving operators of all ages.
- 21 operators involved in accidents (37%) were under the age of 16. Five of those operators were under the age of 12.
- Of the 21 operators under 16 years of age, 67% did not have an adult on board.
- Collisions with other vessels accounted for 76% of accidents involving youth operators.
- Most of the collisions involved youth operators colliding with adult operators.
- In collisions between youth and adult operators, youth operators were more likely to be exclusively at fault.
- 89% of youth operators involved in accidents were operating a PWC.
Fatal Accident Statistics
- Of the 58 fatalities in 2005, 57% occurred between May and September. 57% of all fatalities occurred on Saturday or Sunday.
- 78% of all victims drowned. Of that group, 76% were not wearing a life jacket.
- Eight victims died during paddling activities, the largest number since 1998. Nearly all of the victims died during whitewater activities.
- 22% of fatalities in 2005 were fishing-related.
- Of all fishing-related fatalities, 61% were the result of vessels capsizing or victims falling overboard. Nine of the victims drowned, and three more died of hypothermia. 69% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
- Nearly half (46%) of the vessels involved in fatal accidents were open motorboats, followed by PWC (16%).
- The majority (80%) of vessels involved in fatal accidents were less than 26 feet in length.
- Vessels capsizing (36%), falls overboard (33%), and collisions with other vessels (9%) were the most common types of fatal accidents.
- The most common causes of fatalities were operator inexperience (36%), hazardous water conditions (33%), operator inattention (29%), and excessive speed (22%). (Many accidents had more than one cause.)
- Operators in the 41-50 age group were involved in more fatal boating accidents than any other age group.
- 45% of fatalities occurred on lakes, 19% occurred on oceans/bays, 9% on the Colorado River, 17% on other rivers throughout the state, and 10% in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region.
- 41% of boating fatalities were found to be alcohol-related, where testing could be conducted.
Services Supported by the 2004-2005 Financial Aid Program
| Verbal Warnings
| Physical Arrests
| Persons Assisted
| Vessels Assisted
| Accident Investigations
|Search and Rescue Operations
| Body Recovery Attempts
| Boating Safety Presentations
|Organized Boating Event Supervision
2005 California Boating Safety Education Programs
Continuing Educational Programs
Educational Outreach to School Age Children
| AquaSMART Elementary Education Program
500,000 participating students
| AquaSMART Live! Elementary Program
45,000 participating students
| AquaSMART Boating High School Education Program
1,316 participating students
| Poster Contest (13th Annual)
|General Educational Outreach
| Home Study Course
35,000 courses distributed
|Aquatic Center Grants
| Grants were given to universities and non-profit organizations
for scholarships for the purchase of boats, equipment, and related
80,000 individuals trained
- In 2004-05, the Department attended over 15 events and reached over 30,000 boaters.
Tri-State Boating Safety Fair
- In partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Department sponsored the second-annual Tri-State Boating Safety Fair on May 7, 2005.
- In 2005, the Department distributed 1.2 million copies of boating safety literature to the public. The Department’s Public Information Unit publishes and distributes more than 50 different boating safety publications.
Spanish Language Outreach
- The Department continues to provide the Spanish-speaking community with boating safety educational and safety literature.
Multimedia Boating Safety Awareness Campaign
- The Department continued the Boating Safety Awareness multimedia campaign, focusing on areas with the greatest number of accidents. The campaign has an outdoor component, consisted of 50 stationary billboards, 10 mobile billboards, and 500 wall graphics. The campaign also airs television and radio messaging throughout the state.
DBW Safety Team
- Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the safety team’s Safe Boating is BIG FUN recreational vehicle made appearances at more than 40 marinas and launch ramps in 2005. Over 200 boating safety quizzes were taken during the promotional period.
Get Hooked on H2O
- The Department continued to partner with Infinity Broadcasting, 1470 Radio Disney, Nor Cal Water and Shell Oil in a campaign to remind their collective clients/audiences in Northern California to wear their life jackets.
- Additionally, the Department and 1470 Radio Disney sponsored a “casting call” for children under 14 to audition to read boating safety message on the air.
Life Jacket Loan Program
- The Department continues the Life Jacket Loaner Program, partnering with fire stations to offer free short-term life jacket use for the public.
- The Department continues partnering with marine law enforcement units, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the U.S. Power Squadrons to distribute T-shirts aimed at increasing the use of life jackets by children under the age of 13.
National Safe Boating Week Events
During National Safe Boating Week, the week before Memorial Day weekend, the Department sponsored the following events:
- The Department partnered with Radio Disney, Infinity Broadcasting, and 11 Sam’s Club stores statewide to host life jacket trade-ins. Life jackets were offered free to the first 50 persons at each store who brought in old deteriorated life vests.
- Community service programs on 10 radio stations in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego ran either a half-hour or full-hour program dedicated to speaking about accident statistics, boating and alcohol, and carbon monoxide poisoning prevention.
- The Department partnered with aquatic centers throughout the state to put on boating safety events including on-the-water safety instruction.
- Release of Boating Accident Statistics
- News releases featuring boating safety tips
- Interviews with the media
Safe Kids Coalition
- The Department participates on the Greater Sacramento Safe Kids Coalition under the Drowning Prevention subcommittee. As a river city, that also has a number of lakes and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in close proximity, Sacramento has a need to protect its children from drowning when boating or recreating near the water. The Department provides educational materials for outreach to the community and expertise on open water activities and incidents.
California Clean Green Boating Network
- The Department continues to participate in the California Clean Boating Network (CCBN). This network consists of a collaboration of government, environmental, business, boating and academic organizations working to increase and improve clean boating education efforts in California. Through the exchange of information and consideration of new trends in clean boating practices, CCBN members increase their ability to educate the boating public about clean boating practices.
Abandoned Watercraft Removal Program
- The Department administers a program for the removal of abandoned watercraft and substantial navigational hazards from California’s waterways. The Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund (AWAF) program grants funds to local public agencies for the removal, storage, and disposal of these navigational hazards. In 2005, a total of $338,215 was allocated to four public agencies for the removal and disposal of abandoned vessels and other substantial hazards to navigation.
2005 California Boating Safety Program Enhancements
Program Enhancements for 2005
The Department created and produced two new 30-second radio messages, Angler Jack and No Brakes, addressing the importance of life jacket usage and safe speed respectively.
Television Outreach to Anglers
The 2004 boating accident statistics revealed that one-third of boating fatalities in California were fishing-related. Of these victims, all drowned and the majority were not wearing a life jacket.
Because of these findings, the Department decided to create a radio and television safety campaign specific to anglers. The key message encouraged anglers to not only wear life jackets when underway to fish, but also to continue to wear them while fishing.
In 2005, the Angler Jack and his Life Jacket television spot aired on the Outdoor Life Network and
ESPN 2 over a nine-week period between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. during fishing-related programming. Additionally, a complementary Angler Jack radio message was created and aired during fishing programs throughout the summer in four of California’s major boating markets. The spot ran for 14 weeks in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles, and 26 weeks in Sacramento.
Television Boating Safety Promotion
Premiering Labor Day 2005, the Department’s Boating Safety Awareness campaign forged a partnership between a local television news program, a local aquatic center, and the Department to heighten awareness of boating safety in the San Diego. Safety announcements aired during the morning local newscast throughout the week leading up to the holiday weekend, prime placement on the station’s website for prize giveaways, and culminated with “live” cut-in reporting during the Friday morning newscast featuring the Mission Bay Aquatic Center and an on-site life jacket giveaway.
With the evolution of iPods and satellite radio, among other new technology, traditional radio stations shortened their commercial breaks to stay competitive. Therefore, two of the 2004 spots, Bev Lite and
CO Kills, were converted into 30-second spots in 2005.
In addition, two new 30-second spots, Angler Jack and No Brakes, were created. These new spots were created to increase life jacket use for anglers and safe speed, respectively. These spots combined a humorous approach with a safe boating message.
In 2005, a Sacramento Univision television station gave the Department the opportunity to relay boating safety information to the Spanish-speaking community. Pre-recorded and live feed interviews took place during the summer months.
Other Outreach to the Public
Life Jacket Loan Program
In 2005, additional fire districts in Placer and San Joaquin Counties joined the Department’s Life Jacket Loan Program. A current list of loan locations can be found on the DBW website:
Brochure—Boating Safety Classes
The Department completed work on a brochure that promotes hands-on boating safety courses and contains information on classes offered by aquatic centers that have partnered with the Department. This brochure was distributed in 2005.