More than one hundred years ago, Congress enacted the Motorboat Act of 1910, establishing the first federal laws governing recreational boats. In 1971, when the number of registered boats reached 5.5 million and the number of recreational boating deaths reached 1,582 in a single year, Congress enacted the Federal Boat Safety Act, the most comprehensive legislation ever enacted to enhance boating safety.
In addition to formally establishing the National Recreational Boating Safety Program, a key component of this act gave the Coast Guard the authority to establish mandatory boat manufacturing and other standards, which have reduced boating accidents, property damage, injuries, and deaths.
By the year 2000, there were
nearly 12.8 million registered boats in the U.S., and the annual number of deaths dropped to approximately 700, bringing the ratio of deaths compared to the number of registered boats to a record low.
Are We There Yet?
For the Coast Guard and its many partners, though, even one death is unacceptable. In the spring of 2007, 20 organizations signed the Strategic Plan of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program, whose strategies include:
- improving accident reporting through regulatory and policy amendments,
- enhancing training for investigators,
- creating better measures to determine the effectiveness of the strategies,
- focusing on measures that will increase life jacket wear (given that most boating deaths are drownings),
- enhancing the education and skill levels of boat operators.