Recreational Boating Facts

Snapshot of important recreational boating data
Number of registered boats

The 11,878,542 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2019 represent a 0.22% increase from last year when 11,852,969 recreational vessels were registered.

The fatality rate was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 1.9% decrease from the 2018 fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

2019 total boating accidents

In 2019, the Coast Guard counted:

  • 4,168 accidents that involved 613 deaths
  • 2,559 injuries
  • $55 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 2019.

Boating instruction

Where instruction was known, 70% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

Where instruction was known, only 20% 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 79% 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 alcohol.

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 23% of deaths.

Propeller strikes

There were 171 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 35 deaths and 155 injuries.

Common vessles involved in boating accidents

Where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (45%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (16%).

Top states by recreational boating deaths
  1. Florida (62 deaths; 421 injuries)
  2. Texas (43 deaths; 122 injuries)
  3. California (39 deaths; 199 injuries)
  4. Alabama (28 deaths; 58 injuries)
  5. Washington (27 deaths; 55 injuries)
  6. Georgia (23 deaths; 57 injuries)
  7. Michigan (22 deaths; 74 injuries)
  8. Louisiana (20 deaths; 96 injuries)
  9. Virginia (20 deaths; 33 injuries)
  10. Illinois (18 deaths; 41 injuries)
Top states by recreational boating accidents
  1. Florida (679 accidents; 55 deaths)
  2. California (324 accidents; 37 deaths)
  3. Texas (184 accidents; 38 deaths)
  4. New York (165 accidents; 17 deaths)
  5. Missouri (145 accidents; 18 deaths)
  6. South Carolina (141 accidents; 15 deaths)
  7. Maryland (130 accidents; 12 deaths)
  8. Michigan (128 accidents; 21 deaths)
  9. North Carolina (128 accidents; 15 deaths)
  10. Ohio (128 accidents; 12 deaths)