The Canadian Red Cross Society released a paper chronicling 16 years of recreational boating fatalities in Canada. The report makes it clear that for those who will be out on the water this summer, wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) is the way to go.
An estimated 3,000 Canadians died in boating mishaps between 1991 and 2006. The vast majority of these fatalities were the result of “immersion”. Unfortunately, most of these deaths could have been prevented if the victims had simply worn an approved PFD or Lifejacket. Statistics show that most boating victims are male (note: all 28 deaths in Ontario last year were male) travelling in small open boats; and either don’t have a PFD with them or were not wearing one when an accident happened.
Despite repeated campaigns promoting the use of PFDs, the majority of boaters still ignore this basic precaution. During 1991-1995, only 12% of recreational boating drowning victims were properly wearing a PFD, and in 1996-2000, the figure was 11%. Remarkably, this figure was no better for drowning victims who were non-swimmers or weak swimmers.
Although current regulations do not require wearing of a PFD by boaters, they do require that a PFD be present in the boat. In at least 28% of boating drownings, a PFD was not even present, let alone worn. And even when a PFD is present, it is impossible, or at the least very difficult, to find a PFD in the water and put it on properly after capsizing or falling into water, which are two of the most frequent incidents leading to boating drownings.
Statistics consistently indicate the wearing a PFD or Lifejacket greatly increases the chance of survival if the unexpected happens. The report from the Canadian Red Cross Society recommends that boaters in all vessels not at anchor or at a dock be required to wear (rather than just carry on board) a Lifejacket or PFD. The recommendation stems from the harsh reality that more than 85% of boating related drownings could have been prevented if victims had made the simple decision to wear PFD or Lifejacket.
Many boaters feel that they don’t need a PFD or Lifejacket since they are “strong swimmers” and have boated for years without having a mishap. However, you can’t predict an emergency situation or accident, but you can prepare for one. Strong swimming skills don’t help much if your boat strikes a rock and you’ve been knocked unconscious and thrown from your vessel. If the unexpected happens and you’re already wearing a PFD or Lifejacket your chance of survival is dramatically increased.
Ensure you and your family make the right decision to wear a PFD at all times, when in or around the boat this summer.