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Increase in boating-related carnage underscores need for education

August 21, 2009 | 10:20 am

Boaters enjoy a calm day at the popular hangout called the Sandbar on Lake Havasu.

News item: The boating fatality rate, a measure of the number of deaths versus the number of registered recreational boats, increased modestly to 5.6 deaths per 100,000 boats in 2008, the U.S. Coast  Guard announced. Overall numbers: 709 deaths, 3,331 injuries and about $54 million in property damage incurred during 4,789 boating accidents.

Reaction: It's a good thing summer's almost over because that's a lot of carnage. And it's sad to think that a lot of it could have been avoided had more people taken a boating education course, worn life jackets, utilized a designated driver and exercised common sense.

Two-thirds of the victims drowned and 90% were not wearing life jackets. The Coast Guard also cites as factors operator inattention, careless driving, inexperience and reckless skier or wakeboarder behavior.

Alcohol consumption was the leading contributor in 17% of the fatalities.

In California, for local boaters keeping score, there were 520 accidents and 45 fatalities last year.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Kevin Cook points out that only 10% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had participated in a boating safety course.

That ought to be a requirement, just as it is for operators of automobiles. Sure, they give a driver's license to just about anyone and busy streets and freeways are a fright, but it pays to receive some kind of basic instruction. 

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Boaters enjoy a calm day at the popular hangout called the Sandbar on Lake Havasu. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times