Drunk round-up, Greenwich Point
Greenwich Time republishes a governmental press release as genuine reporting: Marine police will be targeting drunken boating this weekend.
Operation Dry Water takes place Friday through Sunday. Those caught operating a vessel under the influence may suffer penalties that include arrest, fines and loss of boating privileges.
Despite the fact that it is against federal and state law for a person with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher to operate a recreational vessel, BUI continues to be a major problem in the United States and accounts for a disproportionate number of on the water deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s report, “2011 Recreational Boating Statistics.”
Recreational boating fatalities jumped last year to their highest levels since 1998, and BUI was the leading contributing factor, according to the report.
Okay: I’m a boater and I’m a skeptic so I was curious to see if there was anything behind this “article “and whether, had Greenwich Time looked, instead of just republishing filler, they’d have found any information useful to GT readers who wanted to put these numbers in perspective. I Googled up the true information in seconds: the GT itself mentions but doesn’t link to (I will: here it is) the very Coast Guard report that provides most of the answers. Had GT’s reporter actually read that report he might have learned something.
Here’s the real (non) story:
In the northeast, there were 51 deaths in 2011 compared to 50 in 2010. Almost half involved non-motorized craft which will not be part of this weekend’s program, presumably:
Boating fatalities were divided between 29 deaths on motorized vessels and 22 deaths on non-motorized vessels.
Due to the tremendous growth in kayaking over the past decade, and the long-standing interest in canoeing, northeastern paddle-sport fatalities are typically double the national average.
What kind of actual numbers are we talking about? Fortunately, the Coast Guard provides that information:
758 deaths = 6.2 fatalities per 100,000 boaters, or put another way, of 12,225,806 boaters, 758 died.
Alcohol was the primary cause of 16% of those deaths: 121 deaths, out of 12,225,806 boaters. So much for it being “the leading contributing factor”, as Greenwich Time so witlessly repeats.
In Connecticut last year, 8 people died in boating accidents. Using the Coast Guard’s 16% calculation for alcohol involvement, one person died from boozy boating.
Has there in fact been a significant increase in boating deaths, alcohol related or otherwise? No. There were 758 last year, 672 in 2010, 821 in 1997, and numbers in that range during the intervening years. And in fact, (see p.54 of the Coast Guard Chart), accidents in general, power and non-power boats combined, have significantly declined while fatalities have remained flat.
I’m not advocating excessive drinking while boating; in fact, drunk boaters really piss me off. But I’m even more ticked off when publications still posing as independent news reporters blindly and unquestioningly republish hand outs from public relations departments, governmental or private, without thought, effort or even a warning to readers that the information they’re being fed hasn’t had even a cursory evaluation for accuracy.