LAYTON -- Not wearing life jackets, limited boating education and a lack of courtesy on the water are some of the key factors in Utah's ranking as one of the deadliest states for boaters.
Utah had the fifth-highest fatality rate in the nation for boaters at 14.2 deaths per 100,000 boats registered in 2010, according to statistics taken from a recreational boating report.
The report was prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard and shared by Utah State Parks on Wednesday.
The report indicates Utah had 10 boating deaths in 2010, with 70,321 boats registered.
The state with the highest boating fatality rate is Hawaii, which had 26.9 deaths per 100,000 boats registered in 2010.
"The national fatality rate is only 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered boats, putting Utah at almost three times the national rate," said Utah State Parks spokeswoman Hollie Brown.
"We are not surprised by this year's fatal accident rate, as it is consistent with where we have been in the past," said Dave Harris, state parks boating program manager.
"Until boaters recognize the inherent dangers associated with boating and voluntarily start wearing their life jackets and taking boating education classes, or laws are passed that require life jacket wear and mandatory education, our accident rates are expected to remain high," Harris said.
In nearly 75 percent of fatal accidents, the victims were not wearing life jackets. Almost 90 percent of boat operators involved in fatal boating accidents did not have any boater education, according to the Coast Guard report.
Open motorboats make up almost half of all vessels involved in fatal accidents, followed by canoes, kayaks and inflatables and personal watercraft, the report states.
But an employee at a Davis County boat retail business disputes the boater fatality statistics being reported.
"We don't see it, don't hear about it," said Tracy Weeks, an employee of Dick's Boat Shop in Clearfield.
"You have drownings, but you can't associate that with the boat's fault," Weeks said.
However, one mechanic who declined to be identified is not surprised by the reported numbers based on his personal observations.
"People leave their brain at the dock," said the mechanic, who works at a Top of Utah boat retail business.
The mechanic declined to have his name published, fearing it might hurt his employer.
"I quit boating simply because of the idiots on the water," the mechanic said.
The problem is the lack of courtesy shown on the water, with a few boaters putting at risk the majority of boaters who play by the rules, he said.
One way to ensure those driving the boats are experienced enough to handle a watercraft is for the state to begin requiring a watercraft validation on driver's licenses similar to what is required for motorcycle riders, the mechanic suggested.
In the meantime, state park officials are doing what they can to raise the education and awareness levels of area boaters.
"Utah State Parks boating rangers stress the importance of wearing a life jacket whenever out on the water," Brown said.
Boaters are also encouraged to complete an education course to increase knowledge and awareness, Brown said. State parks offers several Internet courses and a home-study course on boating.
"There are already 39 states that require some sort of mandatory education for boat operators and several states and federal land-managing agencies that have passed or are considering laws requiring boaters in higher-risk situations to wear life jackets," Harris said.
For more information on boating courses, visit stateparks.utah.gov/boating.