Coast Guard 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics Report:

Shows highest number of fatalities on record in the last five years

WASHINGTON-May 31, 2017 — The U.S. Coast Guard released its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics Wednesday, revealing that boating fatalities nationwide that year totaled 701, the highest number of yearly boating fatalities on record in the last five years.

USCG Boat Responsibly Logo
USCG Boat Responsibly Logo United States Coast Guard

From 2015 to 2016, deaths increased 12 percent from 626 to 701, injuries increased 11.1 percent from 2,613 to 2,903, and the total number of accidents increased 7.3 percent from 4,158 to 4,463.

“The boating safety community should view these statistics as a stark reminder of the importance of boating safety education,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, Chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. “We are committed to providing boaters with resources including boating safety classes and vessel safety checks. One person lost or injured to a preventable boating accident is one too many so we encourage the boating public to use these educational resources as a means to prevent accidents.”


The report also shows that in 2016:

  • The fatality rate of 5.9 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels reflected an 11.3 percent increase from the previous year’s rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

Property damage totaled approximately $49 million.

Alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths.


Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

“Wearing a life jacket, regardless of whether or not a state or federal law requires one to be worn, is the single greatest factor in preventing death from drowning,” said Johnson. “All boaters should wear a lifejacket at all times when on the water, no matter your age, physical ability, or condition.”

Where the cause of death was known, 80 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned; of those drowning victims, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Where boating instruction was known, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. The vessel types with the highest number of fatalities were on open motorboats, kayaks, and canoes.


“We commend the work of our boating safety partners who serve as a valuable resource to boaters,” said Johnson. “Together, we must continue to strive to reduce the number of accidents and casualties on our waterways.”

The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach your engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and avoid alcohol or other impairing substance consumption.

To view the 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics, click here.


Visit the Office of Boating Safety’s website for more information on boating responsibly.