Water safety always in season

Black Press

With temperatures on the rise – finally – boating season has officially begun throughout the province, from the lakes of B.C.’s Interior to the Pacific Ocean. And with that, boat safety comes to mind. Though it’s been stressed time and time again, another gentle reminder about the potential dangers of open water can only do residents good.

According to the BC Coroners Service, boating incidents are the number one cause of drowning deaths in the province – they made up 22.5 per cent of the total between 2008 and 2015.

That number increases to a full 25 per cent when rafting and tubing are added to the mix – two popular summer pastimes.

A good portion of these drowning deaths could have been prevented with adherence to the golden rule of the water: always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device.

Yes, there is a difference. Life-jackets offer a higher level of protection. PFDs are designed to keep a person afloat but are not designed to turn an unconscious person face up in the water.

Make sure to choose one that suits the type of boating activities you will be doing. And if life-jackets/PFDs are the golden rule, leaving alcohol and/or drugs out of the equation comes in as a close second.

More than 40 per cent of all drowning deaths in B.C. between 2008 and 2015 involved alcohol and/or drugs.

This isn’t surprising. Few people ever credit alcohol for wise decisions.

But again, it must be said.

It’s not acceptable – socially, or legally – to consume alcohol while driving down the highway; so why, then, do so many think it’s acceptable behaviour to have a beer in one hand while steering a boat with the other?

While one hopes that everyone stays safe this summer, wherever their travels – on land or water – take them, it is, statistically speaking, inevitable that somewhere in the province, stories will appear in newspapers and on websites about tragedies, or near tragedies, that occur on the water. Many of these situations will have been preventable, so here is hoping that we all heed these words of warning, so summer can be an enjoyable and safe one for all involved.