More lifejackets, fewer recreational boating deaths

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 50, June 2016

With more than one million New Zealanders taking to the water in around 960,000 recreational boats each summer, it is heartening to see that more boaties seem to be wearing lifejackets, and death rates are declining.

Maritime NZ deputy director and chair of the Safer Boating Forum, Lindsay Sturt, says recent research shows boating safety behavior is improving. Seventy-eight percent of boaties said they always wear a lifejacket on the water, and 60 percent said they also ensure others on their boat do too.

Rates of lifejackets wear are highest for kayakers and canoeists, and lowest among users of powerboats more than six metres long.

Over the past 15 years, rates of recreational boating fatalities have been declining. Fatalities per 100,000 population have declined gradually, while, probably more importantly, the fatalities per 100,000 recreational craft have declined markedly.

While self-reported wearing of lifejackets is increasing, Maritime NZ and the Safer Boating Forum urge all boaties to stay safe on the water. “Always wear your lifejacket” is the message from Maritime NZ and the Safer Boating Forum, because at least two-thirds of recreational boating deaths may have been prevented if people wore lifejackets.

In 2013, 62 percent of recreational boaties reported that they wore a lifejacket the entire time on the water. In 2014, the number was 67 percent, and in 2015 it had grown to 78 percent.

“This 26 percent increase in reported lifejacket use since 2013 is a very satisfying result,” says Lindsay.

The 2015 research will be reported on Maritime NZ’s website in July 2016.

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