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Coast Guard: Recreational boating accident deaths on the rise

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Fatal accidents for recreational boaters increased by 3.8 percent in 2009
  • Inattention, inexperience and alcohol consumption were common contributors to the accidents
  • Wearing a life jacket and taking boater education classes are good preventative measures, the Coast Guard says

Washington (CNN) -- Recreational boating accident deaths are on the rise, the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety announced in its 2009 Recreational Boating Statistics report Tuesday.

The report states that deaths caused by recreational boating accidents have increased by 3.8 percent, with related injuries increasing by 0.8 percent, though the number of accidents actually decreased by 1.2 percent.

A total of 4,730 accidents recorded by the Coast Guard in 2009 caused 736 deaths, over 3,300 injuries and about $36 million in property damage, according to the report. A number called the fatality rate, which compares the number of annual deaths against the number of registered boats, increased to 5.8 deaths per 100,000 registered boats in 2009.

The top five contributing factors to the accidents included boat operator inattention and inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout and alcohol consumption. The report states that alcohol consumption "continues to be of major concern" in fatal accidents, and was the leading factor in 16 percent of deaths.

In addition, a full 86 percent of boat operators involved in fatal accidents had not received boat safety instruction.

"Nearly 75 percent of the 736 people who died in boating accidents in 2009 drowned, and 84 percent of those victims reportedly were not wearing a life jacket," said Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, the Coast Guard's director of prevention policy. "The two most important things boaters can do to prevent the loss of life is to wear a life jacket and take a boater education course."