Recreational Boating Injuries and Deaths: Simple Rules to Avoid Them

Maryland has been blessed with an abundance of recreational boating opportunities. Yet, in the last ten years more than 7,150 boaters have died nationally, most of them needlessly. It is estimated that in 2007, 90% of boating accident drowning victims would have survived if they had worn life jackets. That is a staggering number and explains why the use of life jackets is the number one emphasis of the NTSB's boating safety recommendations. http://www.ntsb.gov/alerts/SA_007.pdf

The NTSB has found that deaths are the direct result of failure to use life jackets and uneducated boaters.

Both of these problems seem eminently fixable and yet every day we see boaters who steadfastly refuse to be subject to the discomfort and bulkiness of life jackets. The difficulty is that the two issues go hand-in hand. Experienced, educated boaters know how to identify dangerous boating conditions and prepare accordingly.

Inexperienced operators fail to recognize potential problems and equally importantly to prepare their passengers for perils they may encounter.

The NTSB recommends that states establish boating safety programs requiring boaters under age 13 wear life jackets at all times and that all operators complete a boating safety course.

The NTSB analogizes life jacket requirements for kids to mandatory safety belt laws. This of course begs the question of why seat belt laws require use by people of every age and life jackets are just for kids. After all, the majority of those who die in recreational boating accidents because of failure to wear a life jacket are over 13.