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New York Reports Boating Fatalities

The growth of paddlesports in the Empire State highlights the need for residents to take a paddlesports safety education course. (credit: Sarah Lilja)
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ALBANY, NY, May 2, 2018 – The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recently announced its 2017 Recreational Boating Report. The state reported 22 fatalities in 2017 – the same as 2016 – which had placed the Empire State 31st in the nation for boating fatalities. In 2017, unregistered craft (kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, peddle boats and nonmotorized sailboats) represented 14 of the 22 fatalities (63.6 percent), an increase of 8 fatalities over 2016. Most of the victims capsized or fell overboard and were not wearing life jackets that may have allowed them to survive.

The nation’s boating advocacy, services and safety group for recreational boaters, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), said the overall statistics show that efforts are paying off to improve safety with recreational boats, but there is a need to increase efforts to educate paddlers.

“Boaters must do all they can to improve their boating safety, whether it’s ensuring they have all of the required safety gear aboard or making better on-water decisions,” said BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water President Chris Edmonston. “With the significant growth of paddlesports, the challenge is finding a way to increase on-water safety with waterway users who are, in a sense, not traditional boaters and are outside existing boating safety-education channels. Anyone can pick up a kayak today for a few hundred dollars without much understanding of the risk factors, such as the need to navigate safely, how to share the waters with other vessels, or why they should wear a life jacket even on a sunny day.”

To help improve paddler safety, BoatUS recommends paddlers take the free online paddlesports safety course at americancanoe.org. The BoatUS Foundation offers a free online safety course for recreational boat owners at BoatUS.org/NewYork that meets the state’s education requirements and may earn a boat insurance discount.

The report notes that New York’s overall boating-fatality rate has dropped significantly since the 1970s. The 22 boating fatalities in 2017 were just 16.7 percent of what they were in 1973, New York’s worst year on record with 132 boating fatalities. “One life is too many,” added Edmonston. “But we know what works, including education.” More than 22,000 New York residents took a boating safety class in 2017, the majority opting for an online boating safety course. This compares to just 8,076 who took a class in 2000.

Some of the success in reducing boating fatalities, the report notes, is attributable to the creation of the US Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety, the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, establishment of federal safety standards for boat manufacturers, improved requirements for boating safety education, increased access to online education, more comfortable life jackets, technology improvements (cellphones), strengthened BWI laws, and enhanced marine law enforcement.

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About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS):

Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We are The Boat Owners Auto Club and help ensure a roadside trailer breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins. When boats break down on the water, TowBoatUS brings them safely back to the launch ramp or dock, 24/7. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program gives boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. We help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit BoatUS.com.