A new high-tech way to gather and use boating-safety statistics via a mobile device has been launched by the National Safe Boating Council and East Carolina University. Traditionally, gathering boating-safety statistics has focused on accident reports and resulting data is then used to identify accident patterns that lead to regulations or education for boaters related to activities and behaviors.
SOBOS (Self-Reported On-Water Boat Operator Survey) is a new iOS and Android app intended to change this negative model. Instead of cataloguing only “bad” behavior, SOBOS collects survey data from boaters who act safely. This means it provides information about normal, non-accident-based recreational boaters that the developers will compare to recreational boating accidents. Currently in beta test, SOBOS will test whether crowdsourcing is a valid recreational boating data collection technique.
The mobile app has two components. First, SOBOS asks boaters to fill out a short survey that takes less than 10 minutes. When activated, it will collect anonymous information about the boater and his boat shortly before leaving on a planned boating trip. Second, SOBOS asks the boat operator to permit the app to track a short span of his next on-water excursion. Like the survey, all on-water data points are anonymous - only date, time, latitude/longitude, speed, and bearing are tracked.
Participation will help:
- Support a public health and service project designed to reduce recreational boating accidents and fatalities by examining non-accident based boater characteristics.
- Locate anonymous SOBOS survey data at “real” on-water boating locations so that non-accident data can be compared to and analyzed with accident data.
- Build a “situational awareness” boater network that enables reports such as floating debris, harbor congestion, broken down boat, and more (similar to the Waze app).
SOBOS has the potential to make on-water recreational boating safer for everyone through its evidence-based approach. For more information and to participate in this public service survey, please visit SOBOS.org to download the app.