The arrival of summer is reason to celebrate in Ontario, and what better way to honour the return of warm weather than by enjoying the province’s abundant rivers and lakes? Boating is one of the country’s most universally enjoyed pastimes, with about a half of all Canadians participating in the activity each year. Most do so safely, but boating accidents remain a common source of injury and, in severe cases, death.

By May 20, 2016, eight Ontarians had died in six boating accidents since the start of the season, three times more than the year prior. These six fatal accidents displayed several traits familiar to boating accident lawyers: none of the victims who died wore lifejackets, five of the six accidents involved alcohol, and several did not involve a motorized craft, which the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say is quite common.

The vast majority of fatal boating accidents can be easily avoided by taking a few precautions. The Canadian Safe Boating Council lists a number of important safety tips on its website, including the following.

Wear your lifejacket

According to a 2015 press release from the OPP, 276 individuals lost their lives in 245 boating accidents between 20015 and 2014 in Ontario. Of these, approximately 80 per cent were not wearing life jackets. The correlation between wearing a flotation device and surviving a boating accident is abundantly clear.

Don’t drink and boat

Boating accident lawyers know that alcohol plays a role in approximately 42 per cent of boating accident fatalities, and contributes to around 50 per cent of all boating deaths among men, who are four times more likely to drown than women.

It is strictly illegal to drink alcohol on personal water craft. Indeed, the only vessels permitted to carry open alcohol containers are those with permanent sleeping, cooking, and washroom facilities, and then only when the vessel is docked or anchored.

Advocate groups like MADD have been instrumental in reducing rates of drunk driving in North America, and their messaging applies equally to boating.

Take a boating course

Quite simply, experienced, capable boaters are less likely to be involved in accidents than untrained individuals. For that reason, any person operating a motorized boat in Canada is required to hold a Pleasure Craft Operator (PCO) card, much like a driver’s license. The penalty for boating without one can be up to a $250 fine for first offences, though this law is sparsely enforced.

Be prepared

This tip encapsulates the previous three: before you head out on a boat, make sure you understand how your vessel operates and take the time to ensure you are properly outfitted with safety equipment. Communicate to friends and family how long you plan to be away and where you’re going, and make sure to carry a charged cell phone. At the beginning of the season, you may want to conduct some initial research into boating accident lawyers and what steps to take in the event of an accident.

If you follow the Canadian Safe Boating Council’s common sense safety tips, you’re almost certain to have a safe, enjoyable boating season. However, if the unforeseeable should happen and you are injured in an accident, contact the boating accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today to find out how we can help.