Life jackets could have prevented half of boating fatalities, Canadian Red Cross study finds

A new Canadian Red Cross report looks at the major causes of drowning over 20 years.

Saskatchewan residents urged to avoid mixing booze and boating

As the weather heats up, Saskatchewan residents are being urged to wear life jackets on the water after a new report showed the jackets could have prevented half of the boating deaths in Canada over the last two decades. 

The Canadian Red Cross (CRC) study, which examined boating deaths across Canada over 20 years, found 50 per cent of deaths could have been prevented if the victims were wearing life jackets.

CRC Saskatchewan operations manager Rebecca Benko said new life-jackets were comfortable and easy to wear, so there was no excuse for not wearing one. 

She believes the current legislation, which requires boaters to carry a life-jacket for everyone on board, should be extended to make it mandatory to wear them.

"We also think, unfortunately, to change a bit of behaviour we need to see more enforcement of the rules, and unfortunately maybe more tickets or enforcement," said Benko. 

The study also found drinking was a major factor in boating deaths, with alcohol found to be present in 43 per cent of victims. 

When you come back and you're safe on shore, have a beverage then.- Rebecca Benko, Canadian Red Cross, Saskatchewan

Men were most at risk, accounting for 87 per cent of boating deaths, and Indigenous people were five times less likely to wear a life-jacket. 

Benko told CBC Radio One's Saskatoon Morning the number of deaths in Saskatchewan was comparable to other prairie provinces, and slightly above the national average. 

As summer approaches, she urged people to wait until they were on dry land to have a drink. 

"We're not saying don't have a drink on a beautiful sunny day," said Benko. 

"We're asking you to go out, enjoy the water, have a great day, but then when you come back and you're safe on shore, have a beverage then." 

Benko said there were also concerns for newcomers to Saskatchewan, who might be visiting the province's lakes for the first time. 

She said there were programs in place to promote swimming lessons for new Canadians, and to encourage Indigenous people to wear life-jackets while hunting and fishing. 

She had the following tips for staying safe on the water: 

  • Check the weather and remember that it can unpredictable 
  • If you are going out onto a large body of water, let somebody know where you are going and when you will be back
  • Wear your life-jacket and make sure other people on the boat do so as well 
  • Wait until you are off the water to have a drink