Recreational Boating Facts

Snapshot of important recreational boating data
Number of registered boats

The 11,838,188 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2020 represents a 0.34% decrease from last year when 11,878,542 recreational vessels were registered.

The fatality rate was 6.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 25% decrease from the 2019 fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

2020 total boating accidents

In 2020, the Coast Guard counted:

  • 5,265 accidents that involved 767 deaths
  • 3,191 injuries
  • $62.5 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 86 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2020.

Boating instruction

Where instruction was known, 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

Where instruction was known, only 12% 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 75% of all boating fatalities.

8 out of every 10 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, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and machinery failure.

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 18% of deaths.

Propeller strikes

There were 247 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 39 deaths and 241 injuries.

Common vessles involved in boating accidents

Where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (46%), personal watercraft (22%), and cabin motorboats (13%).

Top states by recreational boating deaths
  1. Florida (72 deaths; 514 injuries)
  2. Texas (59 deaths; 173 injuries)
  3. California (39 deaths; 311 injuries)
  4. Michigan (31 deaths; 74 injuries)
  5. New York (28 deaths; 124 injuries)
  6. Washington (28 deaths; 52 injuries)
  7. North Carolina (27 deaths; 116 injuries)
  8. Oregon (26 deaths; 54 injuries)
  9. Ohio (25 deaths; 84 injuries)
  10. Alaska (24 deaths; 9 injuries)
Top states by recreational boating accidents
  1. Florida (804 accidents; 70 deaths)
  2. California (493 accidents; 37 deaths)
  3. Texas (281 accidents; 55 deaths)
  4. North Carolina (183 accidents; 23 deaths)
  5. New York (175 accidents; 25 deaths)
  6. Ohio (163 accidents; 20 deaths)
  7. Arizona (162 accidents; 7 deaths)
  8. Michigan (159 accidents; 29 deaths)
  9. Tennessee (155 accidents; 27 deaths)
  10. Missouri (152 accidents; 13 deaths)