In the United States, approximately 700 boating deaths occur each year. Dr. Eric Tongren discusses mistakes and oversights that put persons at risk. Created: 5/16/2008 by MMWR.
Date Released: 6/12/2008. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A CUP OF HEALTH WITH CDC
Stay Afloat in Your Boat
Paddle-Sport Vessel Fatalities — Maine 2000–2007
June 12, 2008
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC — safer, healthier
[Dr. Gaynes] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a weekly feature of the MMWR, the
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Dr. Robert Gaynes.
As summer vacation approaches, people are getting out their canoes, kayaks, and inflatable floats
for a trip to the beach, lake, or river. Unfortunately, a day of fun on the water can be deadly if
people let their excitement overcome common sense. A water outing can be both fun and safe if
you follow a few simple precautions.
Dr. Eric Tongren is an EIS officer based in the Maine Department of Health and Human
Services, and he’s joining us by phone today to discuss boating safety. Welcome to the show,
[Dr. Tongren] Thank you.
[Dr. Gaynes] Eric, what type of boating activities did you research in your study?
[Dr. Tongren] In Maine, we looked at specifically paddle sport vessels or paddle sport activities.
We looked at canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts. This subset of the recreational boating market
is actually becoming the most popular over the last decade, in terms of participation and sales.
And it’s also very accessible for the majority of the population, as compared to motor boats and
other recreational boatings, which incur more of a cost.
[Dr. Gaynes] How many deaths are attributable to this activity each year?
[Dr. Tongren] Nationally, per year in boating deaths, as a total, there’s around 700 deaths. And
paddle sports, which include kayaks, canoes, and rafts, as I said, account for about 100 of these,
so 15 percent. In Maine, we looked at this specifically, and we found that the numbers in Maine
are 3 times the national average, so we have about 46 percent paddle sport fatalities in Maine, as
compared to 15 percent nationally.
[Dr. Gaynes] What’s the most common type of boating activity?
[Dr. Tongren] The most common type of boating activity in Maine is canoeing, followed by
kayaking, and rafting is the third.
[Dr. Gaynes] Are these self-powered boats, like canoes and kayaks, safer than motor boats?
[Dr. Tongren] The problem with paddle sport vessels is that they are inherently unstable, and a
lot of people don’t take this into account when they participate in paddle sports. Our research has
shown the majority of people actually capsize or fall out of these vessels, and they are not
prepared for falling out of the vessel.
[Dr. Gaynes] What kinds of mistakes or oversights do people make that get them into trouble?
[Dr. Tongren] The major mistake that people make is that they are unprepared for their paddle
sports experience. They’re inexperienced, they do not wear a life jacket, and many times, they
drink alcoholic beverages before and during their paddle sport experience, as well.
[Dr. Gaynes] So what precautions can you recommend to help people stay safe on the water?
[Dr. Tongren] First and foremost, we recommend wearing a life jacket. In many instances, the
majority of our fatalities are not wearing life jackets and in canoeists, in particular, 95 percent of
canoeists who died were not wearing life jackets. The second thing is to avoid alcoholic
beverages before and during paddle sport activities because they can impair your judgment, and
you need your judgment when you are participating in these activities. And third, become
prepared by taking a boating safety course, which will underlie many of the dangers inherent
with paddle sport activities, in terms of the inherent instability of boats and problems with water
temperature in Maine.
[Dr. Gaynes] Where can listeners get more information about boating safety?
[Dr. Tongren] People can get general boating information from a website at the CDC at
www.cdc.gov and search for boating safety. Specifically, people can get information about this
particular paddle sport course —it’s called Paddle Smart— at a phone number which is 1-888-
[Dr. Gaynes] Eric, thanks for sharing this information with our listeners today.
[Dr. Tongren] Thank you very much.
[Dr. Gaynes] That’s it for this week’s show. Be sure and join us again next week. Until then, be
well. This is Dr. Robert Gaynes for A Cup of Health with CDC.
[Announcer] For the most accurate health information, visit www.cdc.gov or call 1-800-CDC-INFO, 24/7.