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A recreational boating statistics report for 2012 listed operator inattention as the leading cause of accidents on the water. According to a Coast Guard statistic, out of 4,730 reported boating accidents in a recent year, 23% involved either “operator inattention” or “improper lookout.” Although a broad category, it is by far the largest contributor to boating accidents.

These statistics have led to a call for tougher laws to control distracted boaters who text and talk on cell phones while underway on the nation’s waterways. Many serious accidents, involving loss of lives, have been documented listing cell phone use as the cause.

The call for legislation and tighter controls was taken up by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). They stated in recent years increasing evidence pointed toward rapid growth in the use of wireless electronic devices that are creating hazards for drivers, pilots and train engineers. In a letter to the Coast Guard, they said similar distractions could be dangerous on the water.

Former NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Herman was quoted stating, “The use of wireless devices while operating vehicles in any mode of transportation poses an unacceptable distraction. Lives are being unnecessarily put at risk and lost. The agency is requesting that the Coast Guard tighten restrictions on cell phone use by its officers. It also would like the Coast Guard to work with the NTSB and issue a broad safety advisory to the entire maritime industry warning of the dangers of using cell phones for calling or texting while aboard an underway vessel.”

In response to discussions with the NTSB, the Coast Guard prohibited cell phone use by operators of its boats and restricted their use by other crewmembers.

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8 Responses to Texting While Underway

  1. Capt. Fred says:

    How about this; as Capt. JP suggested why not appeal to peoples common sense and suggest they voluntarily leave the phones home or turned off. This would avoid what byemail was saying, “Tougher Legislation.”

  2. Captain JP says:

    This is getting a little ridiculous. While I will admit it really isn’t smart to text while operating a boat (texting can be very distracting) I consider myself a safe and responsible boater so if you see me with my smart phone in hand it’s because I am either checking the weather or looking at a nautical chart app to compare against my paper chart and chart plotter. Even this I wouldn’t do in a congested waterway with boats around me. It all comes down to being smart and responsible. Common sense.

  3. Kent says:

    You can’t legislate stupid… It never helps!


  4. Dick Frakes says:

    Before all this cell phone craze, people would be excited to go on vacation so they could get away from the phones. Now you never see a person with two free hands – there is always a dumb phone in one hand.

  5. byemail3 says:

    This proposal is without a doubt the stupidest idea yet proposed by the Government/insurance partnership.


  6. byemail2 says:


    I read the article and it states that a large percentage of accidents is due to inattention. Nowhere in the article does it state that the biggest issue is the use of cell phones or texting. Inattention on the water is due to many things such as looking at other boats, the beautiful scenery, people in the water that fell due to waterskiing, talking to friends in the boat and other such items. Does the study specifically show that the accidendents or a larage portion of them are due to cell phones? If not then this study is at best incomplete.

  7. byemail says:


    Nice Report. Thank you. Comment: Why is the solution to people problems always “Tougher Legislation” We have too much Government intervention in everything we do now! How about a different solution that does not give our “Power Hungry Government” more control over our lives.

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