Boating safety experts urge education, life jackets as fatalities rise

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Boat sales in the U.S. rose 12% in 2020 as more people sought outdoor recreation during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a surge of 415,000 first-time boat buyers, according to data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association and U.S. Coast Guard. Boating accidents increased 26% and boating fatalities increased 25% last year. Boating safety experts urge education and the use of lifejackets to help reduce accidents and injuries.

The boating industry hadn’t seen anything like it.

As U.S. residents turned to the outdoors for recreation during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, boat sales rose 12% and builders scurried to fill a backlog of tens of thousands of new orders, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The surge resulted in 415,000 first-time boat buyers, a 35% year-over-year increase, according to Info-Link.

Now boating safety experts are facing heightened challenges.

As the nation’s waters have gotten more crowded, including a large cohort of inexperienced operators, boating accidents and fatalities are on the rise.

In 2020, accidents increased 26%, injuries rose 25% and fatalities jumped 25%, according to recently released U.S. Coast Guard figures.

Wisconsin data mirrors the troubling national trend. Through June 28, 13 people had died in boating accidents in the Badger State, 30% more than at the same time in 2020, according to the Department of Natural Resources data.

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