#GlobalNews: “Don’t mix boats and booze this May long weekend: safety advocates”

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Boat launches were bustling this May long weekend as sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-20s drew Canadians out of hibernation.

For a large number of people, it’s their first time back on the water this year and with the long weekend, there comes the temptation to crack open a cold one — but boat safety advocates advise otherwise.

“A lot of people associate boating and alcohol as just two things that go together,” said Ian Gilson, director with the Canadian Safe Boating Council.

“People don’t think about the fact that the wind, and the waves and the rocky motion of the boat tend to increase the intoxicating factor of alcohol. They’re used to what they can consume on land — forget about getting behind the wheel of a car — but even when they are out on the water, it’s far more intoxicating for that same volume of alcohol.”

READ MORE: 4 water safety tips for the May long weekend

North American Safe Boating Awareness Week kicked off over the weekend. The campaign strives to reinforce the rules on the water and one of its core messages is to not drink and boat.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, around 37 per cent of boaters in Canada admit to consuming alcohol every time they boat.

READ MORE: Alberta RCMP urge road safety ahead of May long weekend

Gilson said the Canadian Safe Boating Council’s research shows alcohol is a contributing factor in more than 40 per cent of recreational boating fatalities. The research shows it happens most often with men in the 18 to 35 age group.

“They’ll go out fishing, they’ll bring their tackle box and a six-pack of beer or whatever, and just go out there and spend the day out there in the sun, fishing and consuming alcohol and then heading back.

“And it’s not just motorized vessels. People go out there and operate their canoe or kayak and have a few beers. The thing with that is [when] they get back to shore, they put the canoe or kayak on the roof of their vehicle, and then drive home impaired.”

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Under the Canadian Criminal Code, it is an offence to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs, although the rules vary from province to province.

“For example, in Quebec, you’re allowed to have alcohol on your boat,” Gilson explained. “But in areas like Ontario, for example, if you’re convicted of having a blood alcohol level over .08, you’ll lose your car driver’s licence for a year, so it varies all over Canada.”

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According to the Alberta Drowning Report, 183 people drowned in Alberta’s lakes and rivers between 2009 and 2013, with 59 per cent happening between May and September, and 54 per cent occurring on weekends.

The number 1 cause of boating-related drownings is the victim not wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device, according to the report. It’s also reported that alcohol is a factor in nearly a quarter of boating-related drownings.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Note: “Previously Published on: 21 May 2017 | 11:24 pm, as ‘Don’t mix boats and booze this May long weekend: safety advocates’ on GLOBALNEWS CANADA. Here is a source link for the Article’s Image(s) and Content”.

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