Boat Safety / August 21, 2023

Preventing the top 5 boating accidents

Summer is still in full swing for another month, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy Canada’s beautiful waters. With one more long weekend in the forecast, it is important before you set sail to talk about boating safety. Did you know that many boating incidents and fatalities are preventable? We’re here to share crucial information to keep you and your favourite mates safe on the water.

Top causes of boating accidents: Many boating-related incidents and fatalities occur due to these key factors:

  1. Not wearing a life jacket or PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
  2. Falling overboard
  3. Operating a pleasure craft under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  4. Capsizing, swamping, sinking, or running aground
  5. Being involved in a collision

boating in stormsDisturbing statistics related to drowning deaths while boating

Every year, 450 people drown in Canada, with 150 of these tragic deaths occurring in Ontario alone. On average, there are approximately 166 boating-related drownings annually across the country. The good news is that many of these deaths can be prevented.

Non-fatal drownings

For every drowning death, there are five “non-fatal” drowningsā€”incidents that result in hospital visits. A fifth of these cases are severe enough to require extended hospital stays and could lead to lifelong injuries like brain damage. Let’s avoid these tragedies through awareness and responsible boating.

The simple solution: Teach more people to swim.

Learning to swim is a fundamental skill that can save lives. Teaching school-age kids to “swim to survive” is essential. The marine environment can be unforgiving, and about 40% of drowning deaths involving immersion in Canada are linked to boating accidents. Boating remains the leading cause of fatalities from immersion and water-related injuries.

The power of life jackets

Wearing a life jacket or PFD is a game-changer. According to the Red Cross, a staggering 90% of boating-related incidents could have been prevented if individuals had worn life jackets. It’s not just a safety accessory; it’s a life-saving necessity.

Alcohol and boating don’t mix.

Alcohol plays a major role in over 50% of boat fatalities. Sean Duffy, Ottawa area chair of the Lifesaving Society and a member of the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition has some wise words: “Water on the water and beer on the pier save lives.” Keep the drinks on the shore and stay sober while operating a boat.

Weather and boating

Weather to boat appIt is one thing to check the temperature, but more important is to check the forecast and the wind. Storms can occur within a short period of time, even on hot sunny days. Make sure you have a plan if you think unpleasant weather is in the forecast and stay off the water when there are wind warnings. A tip is to utilize tide and wind apps. One good app is Weather to Boat. In addition to weather information, you can create and file your trip plan, verify if you have the required safety equipment, refresh your understanding of the rules of the road and use the pre-departure checklists to ensure you have everything you need. Another good app is

Life jackets: Wear them right.

Shockingly, 90% of boat drownings involve events where there are enough life jackets on board but they aren’t worn. In emergencies, putting on a life jacket in the water is challenging. Wear it before you set off, especially in rough, cold, or windy waters.

By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the risk of boating accidents and help create safer waters for everyone. Enjoy the beauty of Canada’s lakes and rivers while keeping safety at the forefront. Together, we can save lives and make this a summer to remember for all the right reasons. Stay safe, stay informed, and happy boating! šŸš¤šŸŒŠ #BoatingSafetyMatters #BoatingSafetySavesLives!

References for: Preventing the top 5 boating accidents

Safe Harbour Insurance: Safe boating awareness

Safe Harbour Insurance: Cold water safety and fall boating tips

Red Cross: Boating, Immersion and Trauma Deaths in Canada

Ottawa Citizen: Drowning prevention week, more drownings occur in open water

Red Cross: Water Safety Boating Infographic

Global News: Body of paramedic recovered in Northern Ontario


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