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Accident statistics excerpt

Jan 31, 2018
12
Sailmaster 22 Draken Belfast
The attached image is from the coast guard 2018 accident statistics. Vessel activity at time of accident. It shows 6 deaths in 2018 while vessel was sailing. Of course any death is serious and we should do our utmost to keep sailing safe but this compares with 9 deaths docked/moored and 27 deaths at anchor. Not to mention 119 rowing/paddling. Is sailing really THIS safe? Or is there some statistical hijinks I’m missing?F7E2BAF9-9B1F-4225-9E83-553664988297.jpeg
 
Jan 11, 2014
4,155
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Yes, sailing is really safe if you don't count minor injuries such as bumps, bruises, and sore muscles.

With that said, look at the death rate per vessel involved, Sailing has a rate of 6 deaths per 69 vessels or about 10% of the vessels involved had deaths. While trolling had a death rate of about 33%. And being at anchor is about as safe as sailing, 27/211.

The data that is missing is an indication of how many boats or trips in each category. If there were only 69 sailing events and 6 deaths, that is pretty high. However, if there were 6,000 sailing trips with only 6 deaths, that is much lower.

Another number that would put this in better perspective is the number of accidents per type of registered boat. There are many more powerboats and kayaks than sail boats, so one would expect higher absolute numbers of injuries and accidents in powerboats and kayaks than sailboats. It is the rate of accidents that is telling.

I think sailors tend to be a bit more safety cautious and compliant with USCG rules than powerboaters. Except for Jet skis, how often do you see folks on power boats wearing PFDs? Compare that number to sailors, where many sailors wear PFDs when they leave the dock. Anecdotally, at least in the area I sail (Lake Ontario) the USCG seems to recognize that sailors are a safer bunch as they rarely conduct safety inspections of sailboats, but routinely conduct inspections of powerboats and jet skis.
 
May 17, 2004
1,945
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
With that said, look at the death rate per vessel involved, Sailing has a rate of 6 deaths per 69 vessels or about 10% of the vessels involved had deaths. While trolling had a death rate of about 33%. And being at anchor is about as safe as sailing, 27/211.
I read the "vessels involved" a bit differently. Sounds to me like there were 69 sailboats involved in accidents, and of those accidents there were 6 deaths. That doesn't really mean sailing is more dangerous, just that being in an accident while sailing is more likely to be deadly than being in an accident while anchored. It doesn't really answer the question of how likely an accident is to happen while sailing.

Another number that would put this in better perspective is the number of accidents per type of registered boat.
I agree. That's a key piece that's missing. Clearly not many people died when sailing, but without knowing how many people went sailing we can't really quantify how safe it is. Having said that, 6 deaths is a pretty low number regardless of how many sailors there are, so yes, it's pretty safe in general.
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,100
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
That chart appears to be meaningless if it doesn't identify fault. Why would there be deaths attributed to idling or at anchor? Perhaps because another boat that causes the death was at fault? I don't really understand how safety can be correlated with the activity based on this chart. Perhaps paddling has a higher instance of death because of the negligence of others? In my opinion, the chart may actually be misleading.
 
Jan 4, 2006
2,517
Hunter H-310 West Vancouver, B.C.
That chart appears to be meaningless if it doesn't identify fault.

Most definitely.

In Canada, the stats say the majority of pleasure boating accidents involve alcohol. My marina is a testament to that. Most powerboaters believe that their engine will not start until they've had at least two drinks. The stats also say that most boating accidents are preventable. Statistically speaking, obvious.
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,100
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
Well, I'm sure there has to be more explanation that goes with the chart to make it comprehensible. It identifies that there are 5,594 vessels involved with accidents and 3,144 deaths and injuries (combined). That's almost 2 times the number of accidents over injuries and deaths. Does that mean that there is usually more than one vessel involved with every injury or death? That doesn't explain that there may probably be more than one injury or death related to an accident that causes injury or death. Also, how many accidents result in no injury or death? How many injuries and deaths are attributed to collision? How many due to other causes?

If there is a collision between a powerboat and a kayak paddler and the paddler dies, does that mean there are 2 vessels involved in the accident and the death is attributed to the paddler? It's hard to say. But this assumption would make it seem that paddling a kayak is a dangerous activity while the 5 people that may be in the powerboat (drinking and unaware of their environment) are participating in a "safe" activity. Paddlers are probably far more safe when they aren't exposed to dangers beyond their control!

Actually, it is fairly easy to recognize why "Sailing" appears to have little danger. When we are actively sailing, with our highly visible sails in full view and our low speed, one would have to be blind or blind drunk, or extremely and uncommonly negligent to run in to us and cause an injury or death. The injuries and deaths that are attributed to "Sailing" would probably be entirely attributed to self-inflicted accidents, such as the ones we have read about during sailboat racing. When we are motoring with our sails down, I suppose our (the sailing community's) accidents, injuries and deaths would be categorized under "Cruising", would it not? How about sailboat deaths that occur during extremely bad weather when we probably have the sails down? Do they fall under the category of "Drifting"?

There is a lot omitted by the presentation of this chart, I think!
 
Jan 31, 2018
12
Sailmaster 22 Draken Belfast
Jan 11, 2014
4,155
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Here is a link to the 2018 report: https://uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2018.pdf

Yes, the one chart I pulled out does not tell the full story. I encourage everyone to read the whole report. It’s fascinating. This page jumped out at me for obvious reasons. In reading the rest of the report you will see that it does appear that sailing is one of the safest things you can do with a boat.
Context is everything. Individual charts and tables only tell part of the story and can be misleading.