A day on the water can be full of adventure, bonding with family and friends and just plain fun.
Far too often, however, recreational watercraft outings turn tragic. Insurance coverage is a smart idea to protect boats against physical damage from accidents, as well as theft. Make sure your insurance clients are covered for all their boating adventures.
Recreational boating continues to grow in popularity and risk. In 2015, there were 11.9 million registered recreational watercraft in the United States, up from 11.8 million in 2014, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Costly boating accidents
Sadly, there are thousands of recreational boating accidents per year. Contributing factors to these accidents include traveling too fast for water or weather conditions, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to follow boating rules and regulations, carelessness and inexperience.
A recreational boating accident must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard if:
a person dies or is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid;
if damage to the boat or other property exceeds $2,000;
if the boat is lost or if a person disappears from the boat.
Alcohol, drugs and boating don’t mix
The U.S. Coast Guard says that alcohol, combined with typical conditions such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray can impair a person’s abilities much faster than alcohol consumption on land. Operators with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.10% are estimated to be more than 10 times more likely to be killed in an accident than operators with zero BAC.
According to the I.I.I., alcohol was a contributing factor in 306 recreational watercraft accidents in 2015 (7.4% of all accidents), accounting for 122 deaths (19.5% of all deaths) and 258 injuries (9.9% of all injuries). Other primary contributing factors were operator inattention, resulting in 58 deaths; and operator inexperience, accounting for 37 deaths.
Additional key findings about boating accidents, include the following:
6% of fatal boating accident victims died by drowning in 2015, and of those, 85% were not wearing life jackets.
The most common types of watercraft involved in reported accidents in 2015 were open motorboats (45%), personal watercraft, like Jet Skis and WaveRunners (19%) and cabin motorboats (17%).
Top 10 states for recreational watercraft accidents (2015)
Following are the top 10 states for recreational watercraft accidents in 2015. These numbers from the I.I.I., using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard, include accidents involving $2,000 or more in property damage and include watercraft such as motorboats, sail boats and other vessels, such as Jet Skis:
No. of accidents: 107.
Property damage: $493,000.
People injured: 65.
No. of accidents: 109.
Property damage: $817,000.
People injured: 70.
8. New Jersey
No. of accidents: 122.
Property damage: $134,000.
People injured: 64.
7. South Carolina
No. of accidents: 123.
Property damage: $958,000.
People injured: 80.
No. of accidents: 146.
Property damage: $1,074,000.
People injured: 125.
No. of accidents: 154.
Property damage: $792,000.
People injured: 105.
4. North Carolina
No. of accidents: 162.
Property damage: $1,492,000.
People injured: 90.
3. New York
No. of accidents: 174.
Property damage: $1,120,000.
People injured: 96.
No. of accidents: 369.
Property damage: $3,101,000.
People injured: 227.
No. of accidents: 671.
Property damage: $9,770,000.
People injured: 390.
Top 10 states for watercraft theft (2015)
There were 5,031 watercraft thefts in the U.S. in 2015, down 3% from 2014, according to an analysis of federal government data by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Of these watercraft thefts, 2,114, or 42%, were recovered by May 15, 2016. Personal watercraft (Jet Skis, WaveRunners, etc.) were the most frequently stolen watercraft, with 1,108 thefts, followed by runabouts (678), utility boats (278), cruisers (181) and sailboats (52).
July saw the highest number of reported thefts (612), and February had the fewest (251).
Here are the top 10 states for watercraft thefts in 2015:
8. South Carolina
4. North Carolina