Safety Tips to Prevent Boating Accidents

Ontario is home to a myriad of beautiful lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. During the summer months, people from all over the province enjoy the weather and the scenery aboard a powerboat. This favourite summer pastime can be the perfect activity to relax, unwind, and explore the province’s waterways.

However, boating recreationally can be dangerous. Recently in Ontario, boating has boomed in popularity, and many people who are new to the activity are taking vessels out onto the water. In the summer of 2020, police reported a noticeable increase in boating accidents, most of which were caused by their operator’s lack of experience.

When accidents on the water occur, the consequences can be fatal. According to the Canadian Red Cross, boaters account for 40% of the country’s drowning by immersion deaths. In addition to the risk of drowning, boaters who are involved in accidents on the water can sustain serious injuries that could have lifelong repercussions.

Although Transport Canada requires everyone who owns a boat to prove their competency by obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), completing the short safety course may not fully prepare new boat owners for the realities of operating their watercrafts. Furthermore, people who rent powerboats may not be required to complete any safety training whatsoever.

With summer just around the corner and an increased number of new boaters setting out on Ontario’s waters, being adequately prepared for your next boating expedition might help prevent injury-causing accidents.

Some important precautions to take in order to safely operate a boat include:

  • Do not operate your boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs: Alcohol plays a role in more than 65% of fatal boating accidents. In addition to slowing a vehicle operator’s reaction time, diminishing their judgment, and reducing their depth of perception, drinking alcohol can accelerate hypothermia in cold water.
  • Check the weather beforehand: Prepare for unpredictable weather events. Even if the local weather reports predict clear skies, if you notice darkening clouds, rough winds, or sudden temperature drops, do not take your craft onto the water.
  • Ensure that all passengers wear a life-jacket at all times: Every boat in the province is legally required to have a life-jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) onboard. But life-jackets are like seatbelts; they only work if they’re worn properly.
  • Do not boat alone: Always make sure at least one other passenger accompanies you on the water. This person should be familiar with your boat’s operation. If you are incapacitated in an accident, this passenger could help safely return you both to shore.
  • Tell someone your itinerary before departing: Inform a family member, friend, or marina employee of where you are planning to go on your boating expedition, how long you expect to be gone, the names and contact information of everyone onboard, and boater registration information. This information may aid future rescue operations.
  • Complete a pre-departure safety check: To make sure you don’t forget to complete any important safety measures before taking out your boat, consider completing a pre-departure safety checklist before each trip.

Personal Safety Equipment to Carry Onboard Your Boat

Many boating accidents are preventable. Being properly prepared can save lives, and can help recreational boat operators and their passengers avoid severe injuries on the water. In addition to taking the safety precautions listed above, it is important for boaters to bring personal safety equipment onboard with them in the event an accident does happen.

Ontario boat owners should carry their PCOC with them while boating, in addition to the following safety equipment:

  • Appropriately-sized, approved PFDs for all passengers on board
  • Waterproof flashlights
  • Flares
  • An airhorn, or other auditory emergency signaling device
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Manual water pump to bail a leaking boat
  • Paddles to help manually propel the boat in the event of engine failure
  • Buoyant heaving line measuring at least 15 metres in length
  • Anchor with at least 15 meters of chain, rope, or cable

No one expects to be involved in a serious accident while enjoying a pleasurable activity. Being over-prepared for the worst eventuality may be crucial for every passenger aboard the boat during an emergency. That is why, in addition to the personal safety equipment listed above, responsible boaters often will not leave the shore without a few crucial personal items.

Many boaters choose to store a first-aid kit on their boat, in case of an accident that leads to injuries. In case of engine failure or another mechanical issue that renders the boat inoperable, it is important for all passengers to have bottled drinking water and high-protein snacks, as well as proper protection from the sun (hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.)

A boating accident could cause your vessel to capsize. That being the case, keeping your cell phone in a waterproof container may come in handy during an emergency. In addition, keeping waterproof matches and a dry change of clothes could be useful in capsizing events.

Common Boating Accidents Injuries in Ontario

Boating accidents can be fatal. They can also cause boaters and passengers to sustain serious injuries. Often, injuries are caused in collisions with other powerboats or stationary objects. These accidents could cause people to be thrown overboard, or to be thrown against the deck.

If an accident victim is thrown overboard and becomes trapped underwater, if they survive the traumatic experience, the lack of oxygen may cause them to sustain an anoxic brain injury. The effects of this injury can be permanent and impact the rest of an accident victim’s life.

In addition to brain injuries resulting from lack of oxygen, common injuries resulting from drunk boating accidents include:

  • Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Concussions, and other traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • And more

Injury-causing boating accidents are often the result of another boat operator’s negligence. Accidents can be caused by another driver’s inebriation, distraction, recklessness, speeding, or other negligent behaviour. In these circumstances, an injured boating accident victim may endure physical, emotional, and financial distress all because of another party’s negligence on the water.

How Cohen Highley LLP May Be Able to Help

If another boater’s negligence caused an accident in which you sustained serious injuries, an Ontario personal injury lawyer may be able to help you pursue financial compensation.

Cohen Highley LLP services clients throughout Ontario from our head office in London and branch offices in Chatham, Kitchener, Sarnia, Stratford and Strathroy. To discuss the circumstances of your accident and learn if you are eligible to pursue damages for costs incurred because of your injuries, contact Cohen Highley LLP today.

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