Life-jackets improve boater safety

NANAIMO – Boat Smart aims to spread awareness of water hazards.

Tashonna McDougall

Tashonna McDougall

With boating prominent in the Harbour City, the message of boater safety is an important one.

Wearing approved life-jackets and personal flotation devices is highly recommended and while the traditional kind may seem bulky, that is not the case for more modern models, according to Tashonna McDougall, social media and public relations lead for boat safety organization Boat Smart.

“There’s a bunch of different things. Mustang PFDs are really great, especially for people who feel like they’re constrained by life-jackets because it just slides across you,” said McDougall.

In addition to life-jackets, boaters are also advised not to consume alcohol. McDougall said the two don’t mix and said alcohol is still a factor in 39 per cent of boating fatalities each year.

“The negative effects of alcohol are actually up to four times greater when consuming alcohol on a boat versus on land. So the motion of the boat, the sun, the wind and waves all combine to increase the effects of alcohol, impairing your judgment and reducing your reaction time,” she said.

The federal government introduced pleasure craft operator card requirements in 1999, due to the number of boat-related injuries and deaths, and according to McDougall, incidents have decreased by 24 per cent since then. Reviewing boater information doesn’t hurt, either.

“Even experienced boaters can have bad habits. If you already have your operator card, check out free animated refresher lessons on Boat Smart’s Facebook page,” she said, adding that it’s a good idea for boaters to refresh their knowledge throughout the season.

Boat Smart is also looking to raise money to send disadvantaged youth to camp, including Camp Goodtimes. McDougall said Canadians are asked to share images of moments on the water. Pictures can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #BoatSmartMoment.

One hashtag will equal $1 donated.