The U.S. Coast Guard has released the National Recreational Boating Safety Survey for 2018. The survey, which was mailed to over a quarter-million Americans, produced scientific estimates about characteristics of recreational boaters, different types of recreational boats that are owned and operated, boating population sizes, and risk exposure, all in an effort to assist agencies and organizations meet nationwide best boating safety practices and standards, the Coast Guard said.

In 2018, an estimated 84.5 million Americans boated (over 25% of the population) and nearly 14.5 million households (11.9%) owned boats, according to the survey. Of the 25.4 million boats owned, 13.4 million were unregistered, including 7.3 million kayaks, 2.4 million rowed boats, and 2.2 million canoes. All boats, registered and unregistered, were operated for 3.42 billion hours (over 130 hours per boat).

The 2018 survey was funded by two grants from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund administered by the Coast Guard. The grants were awarded to RTI International and the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. The culmination of this multiyear $4.5 million project includes two written reports: the Participation Survey Report and the Exposure Survey Report. These reports provide the numbers and demographic profiles of persons who went out on the water in recreational boats in 2018, and provides information on boat ownership and use and estimates of exposure (e.g., person hours of boating) by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey also includes the Data Access Query System, which allows the public to browse aggregated data on which the reports are based.

The RBS Program is committed to using the Survey to (1) identify and analyze boating participation trends; (2) better understand the characteristics of at-risk boating populations; (3) more effectually design and efficiently target boating safety education and outreach campaigns; and (4) more objectively and consistently assess the performance of education, regulations, and enforcement intended to reduce boating accidents.

Capt. Scott Johnson, chief, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety, said, “the information gained in this important effort will help guide the National Recreational Boating Safety Program for years to come, and will assist the states, industry, and partner organizations develop more effective and efficient strategies to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities in recreational boating.”

The 2018 NRBSS results can be viewed at