Mich. Boating Fatalities Drop Slightly, Accidents Rise, Agents’ Study Says

May 24, 2007

Fewer Michigan boaters were killed last year, even though more were injured in alcohol-related accidents, an increasing number collided with other vessels and many still did not strap on life jackets, according to statistics provided by the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents.

“Alcohol and life jackets, if you solve those two problems, I don’t think you’d have any fatalities,” Gary Mitchell, spokesman for the insurance agents group, said this week.

According to Association statistics, boating fatalities dropped, from 29 in 2005 to 28 in 2006. Boating accidents rose about 10 percent during the same period, from 178 to 197, while fewer people were injured, 115 compared with 124.

Of last year’s 28 boating fatalities, nine victims were wearing life jackets.

Alcohol-related accidents rose 30 percent, from 27 in 2005 to 36 in 2006, the statistics showed. Fifty-seven accidents involved personal watercraft. Three deaths resulted from those accidents, down from four in 2005.

Michigan’s inland lakes, where boaters, water skiers, swimmers and personal watercraft users compete for open water, accounted for 102 accidents, the majority of last year’s total.

“It goes back to the individual responsibility of the boater,” Mitchell said. “Congestion is a big problem on these lakes.”

He said limited enforcement resources make impractical the task of cracking down on riparians who drive carelessly, often while consuming alcohol.

Statistically, most boating accidents occur on an inland lake during a Saturday afternoon in July. The most common cause of a boating accident: one vessel colliding with another. Sixty-seven collisions occurred last year, followed by 20 incidents of a boat capsizing.

The number of registered vessels in Michigan stood at 828,529 in 2006, down from 947,777 in 2005, the group said.

Property damage caused by last year’s accident total amounted to $594,742, up from $350,720 in 2005, the group said.

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