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The Leading Causes for Summer Boating Accidents

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Peter J. Gregory
May 2, 2023
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In the short summer months of New York, boating is a recreational activity which many people enjoy taking part in. Although fun and safe when following proper safeguards and procedures, many boaters will increase their risk of serious injury by deviating from these practices. The U.S. Coast Guard compiles statistics every year outlining the causes of these accidents and the resulting severity of the injuries. Out of the 4439 boating accidents reported in 2021, 602 were fatal. June had the most deaths at 107, closely followed by July (92), May (79), August (73), and rounding out the top 5, September (60). These statistics prove what seems already apparent, that the summer months bring about more boating accidents due to the warmer weather.

The most common contributing factors of potentially avoidable boat accidents resulted from vessel operation, loading of passengers or gear, failure of boat or boat equipment, and the environment, as further described below.

Operation of Vessel

Vessel operation was the cited as a contributing cause for 2578 accidents, accounting for over half of the yearly total. These are avoidable accidents which resulted primarily from driver or passenger recklessness and negligence. This category included factors such as alcohol use, drug use, excessive speed, failure to vent, improper lookout, inadequate onboard navigation lights, navigation rule violations, operator inattention, operator inexperience, restricted vision, sharp turns, and starting the boat in gear. Boaters can reduce their chance of accident injury by remaining perceptive of their surroundings, operating the boat responsibly, and by not consuming any drugs or alcohol.


The environment was the second highest contributing factor to boat injuries at 700 total. Environmental factors which contributed to accidents included congested waters, dams and/or locks, forces of waves and wakes, hazardous waters, missing or inadequate navigation aid, and lastly the weather. The environment can be out of the control of boaters, but if there is a big storm on the radar, it may be wise to reschedule a boating outing.

Failure of Boat or Boat Equipment

The third most cited contributing cause for boat accident was the failure of boat or boat equipment, which contributed to 452 accidents. This included equipment failure, hull failure, and machinery failure. Keeping well maintained machinery and equipment can reduce the risk of these accidents, and if something hasn’t been operating correctly in the past, it is better to be safe and replace it then sorry and seriously injured from a resulting accident.

Loading of Passengers or Gear

Loading of passengers or gear totaled 163 accidents, and included contributing factors such as improper anchoring, improper loading, overloading, and people on the gunwale, bow, or transom. This category shows that it is very important to remain cautious when entering and exiting the boat, and to ensure that drivers and passengers alike take the time to load the boat safely and properly.

Other Miscellaneous Factors

Some other uncategorized factors which were listed as contributors are carbon monoxide exposure, ignition of fuel of vapor, sudden medical conditions, and other unknown factors. These combined totaled 546 accidents.

If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury in a boating accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help. It is important to consult with a lawyer early to investigate your options and preserve crucial evidence.  For assistance with these matters, please contact us to learn more.

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About the author: Peter J. Gregory is a partner with MCCM Personal Injury Lawyers in Rochester, NY.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. As a personal injury lawyer, Gregory focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.


This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.