Stay sober to stay safe on the water

Canadian Safe Boating Council

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 (CSBC) is launching year five of “Operation Dry Water,” an initiative to discourage this dangerous practice.

With the summer boating season in high gear, this is the perfect time to remind Canadian boaters about the risks of drinking and boating. Combined with sun, wind, waves and the rocking motion of the boat, the effects of alcohol can be greatly increased.

“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,” said John Gullick, chairman of the CSBC. “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 paddling a canoe. If you are convicted, a judge can suspend your boating privileges.

Some provinces have enacted legislation where drinking and boating can affect your 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’ license suspension. If a person is convicted of having a blood alcohol concentration above .08, 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 deaths on the water while supporting a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol use while boating. The end goal is safer and more enjoyable recreational boating.