An Empirical Analysis of Life Jacket Effectiveness in Recreational Boating

This article presents an empirical analysis of life jacket (LJ) effectiveness in U.S. recreational boating. The authors used data from the U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Accident Report Database (BARD) from 2008 to 2011, to explore the relationship between LJ use (wearing the life jacket) and recreational boating fatalities. Life jacket use, along with the number of vessels involved and the type and engine of the vessel(s), was found to be one of the most important variables in fatalities. The authors estimate an 80% decrease in the number of deceased per vessel when the boaters wear their LJs compared to when they do not. In addition, LJ effectiveness decreases significantly as the length of the boat increases and decreases slightly as water temperature increases. The authors describe the mathematical model they used, including weighting for incidents where LJ data is included. Quantifying the potential number of lives saved by mandatory LJ use, the authors found that if all operators wore their LJs, 1,721 out of 3,047 boaters would have been saved, as would 1,234 out of 2,185 drowning victims. Other variables discussed include length of the vessel and operator experience. .


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  • Accession Number: 01601759
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 8 2016 12:15PM