The aim of this study was to investigate the causes and prevention of the 333 boating deaths that occurred in Australia over the period 1992-1998. It involved: assessment of the Coroner's findings; review of witness statements, police reports, autopsy findings, search and rescue reports, weather maps and reports; analysis of forensic and scientific data; assessment of photographic evidence; review of other related information. The data were coded according to a recently developed national data standard. It was found that nearly half of the vessels involved had an insufficient number of personal flotation devices for the number of people on board; of all people killed only 9% were wearing them, and survivors were more than two times more likely to have been wearing them. If usage could be increased to 75%, five lives could be saved each year with a cost saving to the Australian community of nearly $8 million. The contribution of alcohol to boating deaths (28% in excess of 0.05g/100ml) was similar to its contribution to road deaths. The sequence of events resulting in a boating death was initiated most often by capsize (36%). Capsize was more likely to involve overloading or improper loading, hazardous wind or sea conditions, and dinghies. Twenty-five percent of the vessels involved in fatalities were dinghies and they were more likely to be overloaded, involve capsize, alcohol, and failure to wear a personal flotation device. Fatalities involving personal watercraft were mainly caused by human factors. Boating causes a significant level of harm to the Australian community measured in terms of mortality. This can be reduced by a concerted effort to address the identified hazards and protective factors.