An East Carolina University research professor has recently launched an app for recreational boaters that could eventually help reduce the number of boating accidents and fatalities.
The Self-Reported On-Water Boat Operator Survey, SOBOS for short, collects anonymous information from users' boating trips, including date, time and location, along with the boat's speed, course and heading. Eventually, the app will use this data to display for users in real-time the number, speed and types of boats in a particular area, said Ernie Marshburn, director of ECU's Center for Recreational Boating Research.
"The more people that participate, the better information we're going to have," said Marshburn, who conceptualized the idea behind the app. "Once we have a large set of that data, I should be able to start turning that data back around and sending that back to the people that are SOBOS owners and then allowing them to use it in a productive way, then we grow it together."
In 2017, there were almost 4,300 recreational boating accidents and 658 fatalities nationwide, the U.S. Coast Guard's data shows. Marshburn says he plans to update the app to provide boat operators "with really valuable information from which you can make intelligent decisions while you're out on the water with both friends and family, so that you're in the safest situation possible."
Since the app launched on May 15, about 2,000 users have downloaded it, Marshburn said. The app has several partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard and other boating safety organizations.
Boaters who download the app must complete a 5-10 minute survey. They can then track and review their boating trips. The free app is available for all types of vessels, including kayaks, sailboats, power boats and jet skis.