OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Utah ranks high on boating-related accidents and fatalities

Jun 30, 2023, 12:00 PM

SALT LAKE CITY -- Hot weather means more people will be enjoying Utah's Lakes and reservoirs on boa...

Ashley Cameron of Salt Lake City shows her enjoyment at the sudden increase of speed at Echo Reservoir just outside Coalville, Utah. attended Wake Chix, an event sponsored by MasterCraft boats and taught by professional wakeboarder Will Christien, and is especially for women. Those in the girls only boat learn to drive a boat, pull a rider and dock the boat. June 19, 2008. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

(Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Hot weather means more people will be enjoying Utah’s lakes and reservoirs on boats this weekend, which could also mean boating-related accidents. Officials are pushing for people to be safe on the water after a new report that has the state sitting at the top of a list for boating accidents.

Related: The importance of water safety while recreating in Utah

A new report by Captain Experiences reviewed boating accidents and fatalities and found that the Beehive state is near the top. Utah ranks number five for average annual boating deaths, with an average of 12.7 between 2018 and 2022.

Additionally, the average annual boating accident rate is 105.9 per 100,000 vessels, nearly three times the national average. These accidents resulted in a total of $3,056,861 in property damages between 2018-2022.

More boats, more accidents

The National Marine Manufacturers Association found that boating underwent a boom in 2020 and that popularity continued into 2022. They saw record sales in powerboats in 2020 and another rise in sales in 2021.

“The pandemic created shifts in how Americans prioritize their time, and boating is an activity they’re doing with family and friends to escape from stresses on land, all while creating fun and adventure,” said the NMMA.  

Is COVID-19 the real reason behind this boost in boating activity? The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said there’s no way to know for sure. 

What the data does show, however, is that increased recreational activity results in more boating-related accidents. The study reports that from 2019 to 2020 the total number of boating accidents rose by 26%. Though that number has since fallen, it is still important to understand what causes these incidents, and how you can stay safe.

Common mistakes

The study cites operator-caused issues as the top factor contributing to boating accidents in the U.S. Among these issues are inattentiveness, inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use.  “Among accidents where the operator’s level of boating instruction was known, 74% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had not received any education,” the study authors said.

Educating yourself before taking the wheel — or even hiring an experienced captain — can save lives. 

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Utah ranks high on boating-related accidents and fatalities