Boating-related deaths in Arkansas drop to single digits in 2023

Boating-related deaths in Arkansas drop to single digits in 2023

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)’s 2023 Boating Accidents Year-End Report, the number of people killed in boating accidents dropped to a five-year low last year. Only nine deaths resulted from the 61 boating accidents collected by Cpl. Sidney Grant, director of boating law in the AGFC’s Hot Springs office.

Although the number of deaths is the lowest since 2018, the number of accidents has remained almost unchanged since 2022. According to Grant, 60 boating accidents were recorded in 2022, while 61 accidents were reported in 2023. Among the deaths recorded are The majority were not wearing life jackets.

According to Grant, six of the deaths were from drowning, two from trauma sustained in the accident, and one from an underlying medical problem. None of the victims was wearing a life jacket.

Of all the 185 people involved in accidents last year, Grant says only 35 percent were wearing life jackets. A third of those who were wearing life jackets were required by law to wear them because they were skiing or driving a personal watercraft or were 12 years of age or younger.

Underutilization of life jackets continues to plague officials, not just in Arkansas but nationally, says Capt. Stephanie Wetherington, who has headed the agency’s boating law enforcement efforts for more than a decade.

The main causes of the accidents, according to Grant, were operator inattention and inexperience. The measure for determining inexperience is based on the operator’s use of the vessel he was on at the time of the accident.

The highest incidence of accidents occurred between 3 and 5 p.m., which coincides with the time of day when most operators suffer from inattention.

Seventy-five percent of operators involved in accidents did not receive boating educational training before going out on the water. Boating instruction is mandatory for anyone of legal age to operate a motorboat or sailboat born after 1985. All accidents resulting in fatalities The operators had no known training in boating instruction.

Grant encourages anyone interested in boating to take the boating instruction program, stressing that it only takes one day and that in-person lessons are free. Classes are available online for a small fee.

The full report and instructions on how to register for boating education are available at

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