can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if each state established an ASA style set of courses and required all boat operators to take them? While I support such an idea, it isn't going to happen and the best we will get is something that mirrors automobile licensing whcih obviously is not very effective.
Don't be so sure. I worked in the USCG boating Safety Program for 25 years. In the mid 70's you didn't even dare mention mandatory education, now many states have it. Mandatory life jacket (I always hated the term PFD. Someone at HQ finally got some sense) wear was also undiscussable. Mentioning it, as you said, would cause an uproar. But now we have mandatory wear for children, PWC use, and some other situations in some states. Limits on alcohol consumption on boats was unthinkable. Now we have limits at both the Federal and state levels. People are coming around. Why?
Actually it is partly the fault of the boating industry. All the GO BOATING programs and other marketing programs have caused a huge increase in the number of boats and boaters. They have good intentions though, and support education. But far too many people just buy a boat and get in and go. Probably Bayliner started the trend with their all in one, turn key packages. All you needed was money or a loan and you were a boat owner.
All of this has flooded (forgive the pun) the water with people and boats, people who don't know what they are doing for the most part. So some means must be devised to force them to get at least a basic education in the rules and regulations before they kill themselves, or someone else. Call it what you like, mandatory education, licensing, basic boat education, what ever. It is a necessary evil if we are all to stay safe on the water. On the lake where I am, I won't go near the lake on a summer weekend because of the idiots. They not only ignore basic courtesy, they also break state boating laws repeatedly, and the enforcement on this lake is minimal.
As for the statistics, a few insights. I know the person who does this. That's right, the one and only. The USCG now depends on the states to collect the data and submit it to the USCG. And one lone guy has to compile it all, and turn out the report each year. Back in the 70's and 80's there were 4 or 5 people at HQ that did this, And one in each Coast Guard District to collect the accident data. Back then they had less data to work with. I was the one of who collected accident reports for the states of NY, NJ, PA, DE, CT, NH. And that was just collection. So it is an enormous task. Yes, more analysis needs to be done, but that is left up to you and others.