How to be a safe boater this summer – and what to do in an accident

No matter how much experience you have boating, it can still be a completely unpredictable journey when you venture out on the water – and it’s always a good idea for everyone to review boating safety rules and practices before leaving the dock.  

8 Simple tips for your pre-departure checklist 

  1. Life Jackets: Have at least one Coast Guard-approved life jacket per passenger and a minimum of two on board. Remember, you are required by law to have a lifejacket or PFD (Personal Flotation Device) on board for each person on a watercraft.
  2. Sound Producing Devices:Have a horn capable of producing a four-second blast audible for at least 1km on board.
  3. Distress Signals:Make flares and day signals accessible and ensure they are stored in a dry location in case of an emergency. 
  4. Fuel and Oil:Top off your fuel tanks and know how far you can get on a tank and know where gas stations are located on the lake. 
  5. Lights:Have all navigation lights as required for your boat.
  6. Paddles + Tools:Carry a basic toolbox with tools appropriate for your boat as well as extra paddles. 
  7. Have first aid readily available:This is straight-forward, but very helpful to have just in case. 
  8. Tell people where you’re going:Just like you would if you were going off on a run by yourself, it’s good practice to tell people where you are going, and keep a charged-up cell phone with you.
  9. Check the forecast:We check the forecast everyday on what to wear – so it just makes common sense to see what the conditions will be out on the water. Weather can change on a dime out there and it’s important to know what systems are rolling in.

Boating accidents by the numbers 

Did you know that most deaths caused by drowning are preventable? Check these numbers:  

  • About one-third of all water-related deaths occurred while boating.
  • Not wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device is the number one cause of recreational boating deaths in Canada.
  • The majority of fatal accidents are caused by capsizing, collision or falling overboard.
  • About 40% of drowning fatalities from recreational boating in Canada are alcohol related.

What to do if you're in a boating accident 

Unfortunately, even for boaters who do everything right—such as carefully monitoring weather conditions, sticking to the markers, maintaining safe cruising speeds, and keeping a lookout for hazards - mishaps can happen all the time. 

Here is a quick snapshot on what to do if this does happen to you.  

  • Make sure everyone on board is safe: Your first priorities should be making sure that no one has fallen overboard and taking stock of any injuries - including your own. Make sure everyone is wearing a lifejacket and you are able to mobilize everyone involved. 
  • Get help:  If you have cell reception, make sure to call 911 right away, or flag down a boater passing by to get their help. 
  • Gather all of the information: Just like you would if you were in a car accident, take down the contact and insurance information of the boat’s operator, as well as the boat’s make, model and registration number if the accident does involve another person.  

Boating accidents are governed by marine law, which means you need a lawyer that understands the complexities of this law. The lawyers at Harris Law have years of experience with boating accident cases and will work to get you the maximum benefits and compensation.