Drinking boaters beware

Imbibing boaters were put on alert this weekend—the authorities have started to patrol local lakes, and they won’t be treating boozing boaters with kid gloves.

“There’s a basic rule of thumb: Don’t drink and drive,” said Const. Stan Walstrom, as he was checking local boats for infractions and making sure their gear was up to snuff.

“But, sometimes common sense isn’t all that common.”

Walstrom, who was among a joint team of Mounties and conservation officers that started patrolling launch docks this weekend, said that those who are caught drinking and driving a boat, are subject to the same laws and penalties as those who drink and drive cars.

But, he admitted, capturing those who are drinking and driving on the lake, is a bit trickier. It’s not like in a car, when an open beverage is an automatic cause for penalty.

It’s even difficult to get grounds to test for drinking, although those who gather around in clusters on the lake are treated like partiers.

“There’s a real significant grey-area,” he said, noting some laws are being amended to make enforcement easier.

In the meantime, they’ll go with what they have until legislation changes and focus heavily on education in hopes of convincing cautious behaviour.


As Christopher Marrie, boating safety officer

for Transport Canada Marine said, the Red Cross reports at least 40 per cent of boating accidents and fatalities involve alcohol.


“Two thirds of the boating deaths in B.C. last year, occurred on in-land water,” he said, adding Transport Canada actively partners with the RCMP and B.C. Conservation Officer Service to prevent on-water injuries and deaths.

“No one wants to see an on-water collision, they are often horrific and tragic. Most on-water collisions are the result of unsafe speed for the conditions and improper lookout.”

Over the years and through accident investigations, police have found that a common reason for this disregard of these basic boating safety “rules of the road” is impairment from alcohol.


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