National figures third-lowest since reporting began; Kansas accidents drop 40 percent
PRATT -- Deaths resulting from recreational boating accidents fell in 2007, according to figures recently released by the United States Coast Guard. Nationally, the total dropped from 710 in 2006 to 688 in 2007, the lowest figure since 2004 and third lowest since the Coast Guard began collecting statistics specifically related to recreational boating.

In Kansas, boating accidents decreased by 40 percent -- from 42 in 2006 to 26 in 2007 -- but fatalities rose from five to six, the highest number in six years. Of the six fatalities, four involved capsized paddle-sport craft such as kayaks and canoes. One involved personal watercraft (PWC) and the other a motorboat. Alcohol was involved in eight of the 26 accidents and three of the six fatalities.

Top causes for all accidents remain fairly consistent with previous years. Operator inattention, careless/reckless operation, passenger/skier misbehavior, excessive speed, and alcohol use are the top five contributing factors. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Three-fourths of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. More than two-thirds of those killed in boating accidents drowned, and of those, 90 percent were not wearing life jackets.

In 2008, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks staff are asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and health care costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include always wearing a life jacket and requiring passengers to do the same, never boating under the influence, and completing a boating safety course.