Factors Associated with Life Jacket Use among Cabin Sailboat and Day Sailor Boaters in the United States

In 2015, drowning accounted for 68% of the 626 recreational boating related deaths in the United States. Although life jackets are estimated to prevent between 50% to 80% of boating deaths, approximately 83% of sailboat-related drowning victims were reported to not be wearing life jackets. Life jacket use among adult boaters has remained consistently low across most boat types and may vary by boater, boating, and environmental conditions. Although many risky environmental and boating factors may be associated with a higher risk of boating death, drowning occurs in all situations and it is useful to understand adult life jacket wearing behaviors in differing boating situations. This study uses observational survey data from 61318 adult sailors collected during the summer months of 1999 – 2017 from 124 selected study sites across 30 states in the US. Life jacket use was compared for day sailors and cabin sailboats by multiple boating, boater, and environmental conditions using Chi-square tests for equality of proportions. Results of these tests led to a choice of 3 informative and scientifically compelling variables to summarize variation in life jacket use for each sailboat type. Odds ratios were calculated comparing life jacket use from each boating situation to the lowest risk situation as determined by the 3 selected variables. These variables were represented in a tree diagram, detailing the additive impact of each factor. Following these analyses, all boating conditions were categorized to be risky or non-risky and a count variable was created for each observation based on the number of risks present. Cochran-Armitage trend tests were conducted to test for linearity in life jacket use for both boat types. The overall life jacket wear rate was higher among adults in day sailor sailboats (51.6%) compared to cabin sailboats (13.8%) and in all measured demographic, boating, and environmental circumstances. Comparing high-risk cabin sailboat conditions of low water temperatures, small boat size, and high wind speed to the lowest-risk situation accounted for a 23.3% range in life jacket wear rate (OR=4.7). Comparing high-risk day sailor sailboat conditions of small boat size, one boater on board, and choppy/rough wave height to the lowest-risk situation accounted for a 39.3% range in life jacket wear rate (OR=5.9). For both boat types, the number of risks present and life jacket wear rate exhibited a statistically significant positive linear relationship at p<0.0001. Study results suggest that boaters are aware of the connection between life jacket use and drowning prevention and are more likely to wear life jackets when boating in conditions perceived to be risky. s Boating safety promotion efforts should recommend adult life jacket use in all boating situations, as seemingly non-risky conditions may still result in drownings.


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  • Accession Number: 01671976
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 16 2018 3:30PM