USCG BARD as a Tool for Boating Safety Continuous Improvement

The U.S. Coast Guard BARD (Boating Accident Report Database) is a vehicle for driving continuous improvement in boating safety, however, it is not being widely used.

We suggest all boat builders closely monitor their boats in all kinds BARD reported accidents, develop and test solutions where needed, and use those solutions to continuously improve the safety of their products.

Some boating safety improvement efforts could be jointly shared with other boat builders facing similar challenges through groups like NMMA and ABYC if they were to more aggressively identify and respond to opportunities.

Some solutions may involve programs instead of hardware (boating safety classes, licensing, increased law enforcement presence on holidays, rental operator training, etc.).

The same opportunities exist for marine drive manufacturers to monitor safety issues specific to their drives (like propeller accidents, struck by motor accidents, rope entangled in propeller, engine failure, started in gear, etc.).

We encourage all boat builders to take make fuller use of BARD. If you are having problems using BARD or understanding it, please contact us. If you do not have copies of the recent annual BARD databases, contact the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety (if you have trouble reaching them, contact us for some direct USCG contact info). You will need a copy of Microsoft Access or a similar database to access BARD. BARD is not easy and takes a while to master. Your State Boating Law Administrator, NASBLA, or those recording boat accidents in your state might be able to demonstrate BARD to you at one of of their meetings.

If your boats appear to be involved in the same kind of accidents as other similar boats, we encourage you to contact NMMA and ABYC to find ways you can work together with builders of similar vessels on more complex problems.

We also strongly encourage you to contact USCG and NMMA and encourage them to do everything possible to get the twenty plus states that dropped out of public BARD reports to put their data back in so you can make your boats safer.

While BARD can be a tool for continuously improving boating safety, please do not use it as you only one. Maintain a list of accident reports from all sources and regularly scan media reports for your vessels involved in accidents.

We encourage you to employ root cause analysis techniques and to keep an eye on your warranty failure reports for possible safety issues there as well.

Good Luck!


  1. Boating safety is important and therefore BARD must not be neglected.

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