Recreational Boating Facts

Snapshot of important recreational boating data
Number of registered boats

The 11,852,969 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2018 represent a 0.91% decrease from last year when 11,961,568 recreational vessels were registered.

The fatality rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 3.6% decrease from the 2017 fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

2018 total boating accidents

In 2018, the Coast Guard counted:

  • 4,145 accidents that involved 633 deaths
  • 2,511 injuries
  • $46 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 84 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2018.

Boating instruction

Where instruction was known, 74% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

Where instruction was known, only 18% 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 77% 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, 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 19% of deaths.

Propeller strikes

There were 177 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 25 deaths and 177 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 (19%), and cabin motorboats (15%).

Top states by recreational boating deaths
  1. Florida (57 deaths; 297 injuries)
  2. Texas (38 deaths; 123 injuries)
  3. California (34 deaths; 207 injuries)
  4. North Carolina (30 deaths; 108 injuries)
  5. Michigan (22 deaths; 80 injuries)
  6. Tennessee (22 deaths; 74 injuries)
  7. Alaska (22 deaths; 7 injuries)
  8. Wisconsin (21 deaths; 78 injuries)
  9. Washington (21 deaths; 47 injuries)
  10. New York (20 deaths; 93 injuries)
Top states by recreational boating accidents
  1. Florida (607 accidents; 54 deaths)
  2. California (322 accidents; 33 deaths)
  3. Texas (204 accidents; 35 deaths)
  4. New York (182 accidents; 27 deaths)
  5. South Carolina (143 accidents; 17 deaths)
  6. Maryland (130 accidents; 15 deaths)
  7. Missouri (129 accidents; 6 deaths)
  8. Arizona (126 accidents; 15 deaths)
  9. Ohio (122 accidents; 13 deaths)
  10. North Carolina (122 accidents; 12 deaths)