Study shows 1 in 12 Canadians don't wear lifejackets

Topics: National, Water Safety
August 23, 2012

Study shows 1 in 12 Canadians don't wear lifejackets

The summer may be drawing to a close, but for many Canadians who enjoy the great outdoors, it's still the perfect time of year for indulging in fun activities like swimming or boating. While always a blast, these adventures can quickly turn deadly and put you and your loved ones at risk for drowning or other serious injuries.

Just how many boating incidents occur in Canada each year? According to a 10-year study conducted by the Canadian Red Cross, 166 boating-related fatalities occur each year throughout the country, and over the span of 10 years have resulted in approximately 1800 fatalities. 

In addition to examining trends in drowning, the organization found that certain types of boats carry greater risks than others. While canoes or rowboats may seem riskier for drowning-related incidents because of the proximity passengers have to the water, powerboats can also be highly dangerous.

Based on known reports, of those who drown while boating, 88 per cent are not wearing a lifejacket or do not have it properly secured. The Canadian Red Cross has found that 94 per cent of rowboat drowning fatalities and 91 per cent of powerboat drowning fatalities were linked to not wearing or being properly outfitted in a lifejacket at the time of death. How can you tell a lifejacket is the right fit? Before selecting a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD), be sure to try it on and ensure it is the correct size.

What makes these terrible fatalities all the more tragic is how easily they may have been avoided had passengers been proactive about lifejacket usege. Instead, many Canadians continue practicing unsafe habits while on board because of misguided assumptions about the importance of wearing lifejackets.

In a 2012 study examining Canadian attitudes toward safe water practices, research firm Ipsos Reid found that less than half of Canadians wear lifejackets regularly. Even more startling - one in 12 Canadians claimed they don't wear lifejackets at all.

Passengers who refused to wear lifejackets had several reasons. An estimated 25 per cent claimed knowing how to swim was protection enough against the risk of drowning, while one in five passengers said they didn't wear lifejackets because of how uncomfortable they felt.

If you've forgotten to wear a lifejacket in the past, it's never too late to change your habits. Before selecting a lifejacket or PFD, be sure to try it on. Ask yourself, does this seem like it could support you in the water? More importantly, inspecting it to make sure it's Canadian-approved and will allow you to move your arms with ease can be vital and could make all the difference in the world during those pivotal seconds following an incident.

The Canadian Red Cross offers a range of tips and programs that can help you build better water safety practices. If you're unsure about your swimming abilities, Red Cross Swim can be a great resource to brush up on your skills, while safety campaigns like National Lifejacket Day strive to increase awareness about the importance of lifejacket use among Canadian boaters. 

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