Effort to reduce recreational boating fatalities continues

26 July 2017

While more and more Kiwis take to the water in recreational craft (more than 1.4 million last summer) the number of recreational boating fatalities has not increased.

Maritime NZ released annual boating statistics today (July 26) showing 16 boaties died in recreational boating accidents in the last financial year (1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017). This compares to 16 in the previous year, 31 the year before, and 22 during 2013-14.

Maritime NZ Director, Keith Manch, said years of work by the Safer Boating Forum has focused on changing boaties’ behavior and reducing the fatality rate. Action is already under way for the next summer with the intent of maintaining and encouraging safer behavior and further reducing fatalities.

“We have been using a mix of compliance activities, advertising and education to get the safer boating message to boaties, and we have used research to focus our campaigns,” Mr Manch said.

“Your lifejacket is your number one piece of safety equipment, and we urge boaties to back that up with waterproof emergency communications. If you can’t call for help, then no one can rescue you.

“We know nearly 90 percent of boaties have lifejackets and 76 percent are wearing them always or most of the time. It is highly likely that this factor is contributing to the decreasing fatality rate.

“VHF radio and distress beacons are the best emergency communications to take on a boat. A quarter of boaties have a VHF radio and 18 percent have a distress beacon.

“We know most boaties take a cellphone with them on the water and we have taken advantage of that to create the ‘Virtual Coastwatch’. This recognises when a boatie is online on the water and sends them a lifejacket safety message. Four million lifejacket reminders were sent to boaties last year.

“The number of boaties is increasing, and that is pushing up the number of inexperienced people on the water. We need to get the basic safer boating messages to them.”

Fatalities in 2016-17 continued the pattern that most people who die in boating accidents are men, aged over 40 years old, in smaller craft under six metres, usually not wearing a lifejacket.

Of the 16 people who died in 2016-17:

  • 15 were men, one was a woman
  • 11 were over 40 years, three were under 40, two were of unknown age
  • 10 were in vessels under 6 metres long, six in larger vessels
  • eight were not wearing lifejackets, one was wearing a lifejacket, and in seven cases it is not known if a lifejacket was worn.

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