To raise awareness and reduce alcohol-related deaths, the Canadian Safe Boating Council is continuing “Operation Dry Water”. Its goal is to discourage this dangerous practice. (Contributed photo)

Drinking and boating can be a lethal combination

The Canadian Safe Boating Council is launching a new campaign to discourage this dangerous practice.

Did you know it’s illegal to even operate a canoe while drunk?

Drinking and boating accounts for approximately 40 per cent of boating-related fatalities on Canadian waterways.

To raise awareness and reduce alcohol related deaths, the Canadian Safe Boating Council is launching year five of “Operation Dry Water”. Its goal is to discourage this dangerous practice.

“Many boaters are unaware that when it comes to impaired driving, the rules are the same on the water as they are on the road,” said Sienna Joyce, coordinator of the Lifesaving Society’s Waterwise Team. Combined with sun, wind, waves and the rocking motion of the boat, the effects of alcohol on the water can be greatly increased. “We want to remind the public that alcohol consumption can result in a criminal charge, but it can also potentially lead to a highly preventable drowning death.”

“The CSBC, its partners and sponsors would like, through this and our other initiatives, to raise attention to the problem of boating under the influence and to remind boaters not to drink and boat,” stated John Gullick, chair of the Canadian Safe Boating Council.

Operation Dry Water will focus on the potential risks of drinking and boating, and remedies that are currently in place to discourage it.

Federal statutes dictate that, whether or not your craft is motorized, you can be charged with Impaired Operation of a Vessel under the Criminal Code of Canada if your blood alcohol level exceeds the .08 threshold. This means you can be charged even if you are impaired while operating a canoe and a judge is able to, upon conviction, suspend your boating privileges. But that’s not all; it can get worse.

Some provinces have enacted legislation where drinking and boating can affect your automobile driving privileges. In Ontario, for example, Bill 209 amended the Highway Traffic Act to also apply to “anyone operating or having the care or control of a vessel”. As such, anyone found boating with a blood alcohol level above .05, faces an on-the-spot automobile drivers’ licence suspension. Should the person’s blood alcohol concentration exceed .08, upon conviction, an additional suspension of up to one year can be applied.

Operation Dry Water is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities on the water while fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol use while boating. The end goal? To achieve safer and more enjoyable recreational boating.

This initiative is made possible through support of Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety.

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