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Reporting guidance, data gathering and entry

Standardized Terms and Definitions in Five Incident Report Categories: The USCG/ERAC Accident Reporting Terms and Definitions Project---a collaborative effort led by a team from NASBLA's Engineering, Reporting & Analysis Committee (ERAC) and subject matter experts from the U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Safety Division---revised entries in five of the major incident report categories. The lists, accepted by vote of NASBLA membership in 2012 and 2013, were reviewed and updated again as part of more comprehensive reporting project initiated in November 2017. On July 31, 2020, NASBLA membership voted to accept the consensus recommendations package developed via that comprehensive Recreational Boating Incident Reporting Policy Project  and approve its delivery to the Coast Guard to inform development of national reporting policies and procedures. In January 2023, CG-BSX Policy Letter 23-01 -- which addressed a segment of the recommendations on the reportability of certain types of incidents -- was released to the States. In September 2023, however, the Coast Guard updated the policy letter---CG-BSX Policy Letter 23-01, CH-1 was issued to remedy gaps in the original version and provide additional guidance for its implementation.  The accident (incident) types entries from the 2012 and 2020 projects formed the basis for many of the terms and definitions applied in the 2023 policy.  Click here to access the original terms lists, the updated lists that were included among the 2020 recommendations, and the incident types terms and definitions incorporated into CG-BSX Policy Letter 23-01, CH-1. A variety of guidance and reference documents originally developed for release with the 2012-2013 versions also are available on that page, and additional guidance and 'best practices' for applying the policy's incident types will be added as they become available.


Human Performance Investigation Guidance and Data Collection in Recreational Boating Incidents: This multi-year project initiated in 2014 yielded guidance and a supplemental report form for officers/investigators in states wishing to augment their recreational boating incident investigations, add to the knowledge about human factors, and evaluate their own safety programs and strategies. Click here for more information about the approach developed by ERAC and the most current guidance documents and supplemental report form for gathering and examining human factors data. 

Good Practices for Writing Incident Report Narratives
: This best practices package is designed to help officers/investigators write clear, consistent narratives and aid state personnel involved in reviewing and submitting the reports. While the elements and format are geared toward constructing the report narratives that states submit to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Accident Report Database (BARD), the basic principles can also be applied to more detailed report narratives. Click here for the best practices, including sample narratives.

Guidance in Documenting Alcohol and Drug Involvement in Recreational Boating Incidents:
This product is geared toward helping officers/investigators in the process of determining and accurately recording alcohol or drug involvement as a contributing factor to an incident (with or without physical evidence), as legal impairment (BUI, OUI, etc.), or as a result of reasonable suspicion without physical evidence. Click here for guidance in making the selection, including a set of questions to pose about the operator and occupants or others involved in the incident.

Resources for Recognizing and Reporting Electric Shock Drownings: This resource page not only links to Information about ESDs from various organizations, but also presents two ERAC products---a response and investigation checklist designed to help officers/investigators and other first responders in the accurate recognition and reporting of ESD events, and general guidance and considerations for BLAs addressing ESD-related legislative proposals.

Resources for Recognizing and Reporting Carbon Monoxide (CO) Incidents: This resource page not only presents general information and resources about CO incidents from various organizations, but also links to two ERAC products---a response and investigation checklist to help officers/investigators and other first responders in the accurate recognition and reporting of CO incidents, and guidance for BLAs addressing marine CO detection-related legislative proposals.

Compiling, analyzing, publishing state-level statistics

Generating State-Level Statistical Reports on Recreational Boating Incidents: This template, built right into the U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Accident Report Database (BARD), went "live" in October 2018. It is designed to give States the ability to easily generate state-level statistical reports from incident report data they enter into BARD. Click here for more about the intent of this ERAC product, which was developed in close coordination with the Coast Guard's Boating Safety Division, and a link to the latest version of the user manual.

In-Depth Analysis of Fatality Trends by Body of Water:
This August 2012 package of products is designed to help State boating authorities compile and explore trends in their report data with easy-to-use Excel-based templates focused on two of the major reporting categories--types of incidents and contributing factors.

Exploring national compilations of incident statistics

The U.S. Coast Guard publishes an annual report containing statistics on recreational boating incidents and registered vessels. Data for the statistics come from the States (primary source), federal agencies, the public, and the news media. The Coast Guard reviews the submissions and standardizes the data so that it can be used for national comparisons, meaning the published values may be different from the State's original submission. Reports from 2004 through 2022 are available for download at  Copies of reports all the way back to 1960 are available in the NASBLA Connect Public Library.


Interpreting and using findings from survey data

National Recreational Boating Safety Surveys - NRBSS (U.S. Coast Guard):
For a closer look at the 2012 NRBSS surveys, explanations of how the participation and exposure hours data were generated, and compilations of state-level data not available elsewhere, head over to In early December 2020, the Coast Guard released the results of the most recent iteration -- the 2018 participation and exposure surveys. As it did for the 2012 surveys, ERAC explored and evaluated the 2018 survey findings and methodologies with an eye toward developing products that can assist the states in practical application of the data to their RBS programs and providing feedback to the Coast Guard as it develops and implements the next iteration of the NRBSS. 

page last updated Dec. 5, 2023

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