BC Coroners Service reminds boaters to wear PFDs

As the last long weekend of the summer approaches, the BC Coroners Service is urging residents and visitors to stay safe when boating.

  • Sep. 1, 2016 6:00 a.m.

As the last long weekend of the summer approaches, the BC Coroners Service is urging residents and visitors to stay safe when boating.

The need for all persons in small vessels to wear a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD) is highlighted by two cases reported to the BC Coroners Service this week. Both persons were in small boats.

In one case, the person fell overboard. In the other, the boat capsized. Neither person was wearing a PFD. Neither survived.

In at least one case, PFDs were aboard the boat but not being worn by the occupants. This reinforces the need for boaters to wear PFDs  at all times while on the water, as research has shown that as many as 70 per cent of boating deaths involve persons who have become separated from their vessels.

A study from Washington State showed that the chances of someone dying in a boating accident were 2.6 times higher if they were not wearing a PFD.

Another study from Alaska showed that of all those who died in recreational boating accidents, only 17 per cent were wearing a PFD.

Coroners’ statistics show that boating is the most common context in which drowning occurs in British Columbia. In 2015, 36 per cent of all accidental drowning deaths (25 from a total of 70) involved someone who was boating.

The other key boating safety tip offered by the BC Coroners Service: Do not mix alcohol with any recreational water activities. A study specific to boating published in the journal, Injury Prevention, suggests that someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 has about 10 times the risk of drowning while boating, and that even a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk.