Recreational Boating Facts

*Snapshot of important recreational boating data
Number of registered boats

The 11,957,886 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2021 represent a 1.01% increase from last year when 11,838,188 recreational vessels were registered.

The fatality rate was 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 15.4% decrease from the 2020 fatality rate of 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

2021 total boating accidents

In 2021, the Coast Guard counted:

  • 4,439 accidents that involved 658 deaths
  • 2,641 injuries
  • $67.5 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
Victims not wearing a life jacket

According to recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, where cause of death was known 83 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2021.

Boating instruction

Where instruction was known, 75% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

Where instruction was known, only 16% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received nationally-approved boating safety instruction.

Boating and drowning

Drowning is the reported cause of death in 81% of all boating fatalities.

3 out of every 4 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.

Top contributing factors in boating accidents

The top five primary contributing factors in accidents are operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed

Boating under the influence

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 16% of deaths.

Propeller strikes

There were 188 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 24 deaths and 191 injuries.

Common vessles involved in boating accidents

Where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (13%).

Top states by recreational boating deaths
  1. Florida (61 deaths; 451 injuries)
  2. Texas (58 deaths; 149 injuries)
  3. California (39 deaths; 235 injuries)
  4. Missouri (28 deaths; 116 injuries)
  5. Louisiana (27 deaths; 77 injuries)
  6. Wisconsin (23 deaths; 61 injuries)
  7. Michigan (21 deaths; 42 injuries)
  8. Tennessee (21 deaths; 78 injuries)
  9. North Carolina (20 deaths; 91 injuries)
  10. Ohio (19 deaths; 74 injuries)
Top states by recreational boating accidents
  1. Florida (723 accidents; 60 deaths)
  2. California (454 accidents; 37 deaths)
  3. Texas (238 accidents; 52 deaths)
  4. South Carolina (184 accidents; 16 deaths)
  5. North Carolina (171 accidents; 20 deaths)
  6. New York (162 accidents; 15 deaths)
  7. Missouri (159 accidents; 28 deaths)
  8. Ohio (140 accidents; 16 deaths)
  9. Maryland (138 accidents; 6 deaths)
  10. Tennessee (123 accidents; 20 deaths)