Boating Activities to Die For – Or Not

In the ten years from (2005 to 2015) 473 people drowned while participating in some form of boating activities.

In fact boat activities account for 16% of all drowning deaths in Australia.

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boating activities

Boating Death Statistics

Males account for 92% of deaths in all boating activities.

Almost 20% of people (90 in total) in these boating activity deaths were over 65 years of age.

This is closely followed by the 35 - 44 age group who represent 18% of all water activity deaths.

​Most deaths (28%) during boating activities  occur while fishing with 27% of the deaths occurred while moving.

Small powered vessels under 5 metres feature in a large percentage (21%) of these incidents. Paddle craft (kayaks, canoes, surf skis) were represented (33%) in most of the water activity deaths

Key high risk behaviours feature drugs and alcohol when participating in water activities. 30% of people who died had consumed drugs and 26% (124 people) had alcohol present in their system. Most of these incidents occurred later in the day, most at night.

However, only 8% of the people who died were ​wearing life jackets at the time of death.

64% of deaths were not visitors to the location.

23% of the incidents involved multiple fatalities, where more than one person drowned.

33% of the people involved in water activity deaths were known to have a pre-existing medical condition, most commonly cardiac-related diseases.

Facts about boating activities

  • 473 people drowned participating in boating activities from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2015
  • 72% occurred during boating activities and 29% whilst using watercraft
  • 92% of all drowning deaths were male
  • 88 (18%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 35 - 44 years
  • 82 (17%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 45 - 54 years
  • 81 (17%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 25 - 34 years
  • 90 (19%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 65 years and over
  • Boating Activities Deadly Locations

  • 248 (52%) drowning deaths occurred in oceans and harbours
  • 152 (33%) drowning deaths occurred at inland waterway locations
  • Deadly Boating Activities

    • 132 (28%) people were fishing immediately prior to drowning
    • 127 (27%) people were moving immediately prior to drowning
    • 58 (12%) people drowned as a result of falling overboard

    State and Territory breakdown

    • ​NSW - 149 (31%) drowning deaths
    • Qld - 121 (26%)
    • VIc - 57 (12%)
    • WA - 63 (13%)
    • NT - 12 (3%)
    • SA - 33 (7%)
    • TAS 34 (7%)
    • ACT - 2 (0.4%)
  • Know the hazards that exist in the waterways in which you travel