Boating safety campaign to launch summer 2018

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Starting this summer, a multi-platform social marketing campaign aims to help British Columbians enjoy recreational boating safely.

From the May long weekend until Labour Day, boaters will see messaging displayed at select marinas, in nearby restaurants and pubs, on billboards and transit stops, and online reminding them that drowning and other boating-related injuries are preventable.

The campaign is part of a three-year project with the BCIRPU, Preventable, and the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR). RCMSAR is a volunteer-based organization that operates 33 marine rescue stations on the British Columbia coast and in the BC Interior.

RCMSAR volunteers will engage directly with recreational boaters to remind British Columbians of the risks of drinking alcohol while boating, to wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD), and to make sure they have equipment that is in good working condition and accessible, and that they know how to use it.

“32% of water-related fatalities in BC occur while boating, higher than the national average of 26%,” says Dr. Ian Pike, BCIRPU director and spokesperson for Preventable. “We want to remind British Columbians that drowning and boating-related injuries don’t just ‘happen’—they are preventable.”

Funding is provided by Transport Canada, and was announced last May.

Key Messages:

  • Wear a PFD/Lifejacket: No one expects to fall overboard – wear it and be safer.
  • Alcohol consumption: Drinking and boating don’t mix—it’s safest to wait until you are docked.
  • Have the right equipment: Make sure it is in good working condition and accessible, and know how to use it.

Quick Facts:

  • 32% of water-related fatalities in BC occur while boating, higher than the national average of 26%.12
  • Over 50% of boating incidents involve a powerboat.[1]
  • Adults aged 35 to 49 years old have the highest rate of recreational boating-related fatality.3
  • Recreational boating-related hospitalizations primarily occur among adults; the highest rates occurred in teenagers (15-19 years) and adults (50-64 years). [3]
  • Males are at much higher risk of boating-related injury compared to females. [3]
  • 85% of recreational boaters in BC who fatally drowned between 2009 and 2014 were not wearing a PFD/lifejacket, or were wearing it incorrectly.4
  • 1 out of 3 of drowning deaths among recreational boaters in BC involve alcohol and at least 25% occur during calm water conditions.[4]
  • Lakes are the most frequent body of water where recreational boating-related deaths occur.[3]
  • From 2010-2014, 60% of water-related fatalities occurred during the months of May through until August, with July being the month with the highest percentage of water-related fatalities (17%).[1]
  • The total cost of drowning to British Columbians in 2010 was $25 million.5
  • The greatest number of drowning fatalities took place in the Metro Vancouver district (17%), followed by the Central Kootenay (14%) (2014).[1]


  1.  Prepared for the Lifesaving Society Canada by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre (2017). BC Drowning Report. (BC Coroners Data).
  2.  Prepared for the Lifesaving Society Canada by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre (2017). Canadian Drowning Report. (Chief Coroner’s and Medical Examiner’s Office Canada data).
  3.  The Epidemiology of Recreational Boating-Related Injuries in BC (2017). BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, Vancouver, BC.
  4.  Drowning Prevention Research Centre.
  5.  Rajabali F, Ibrahimova A, Barnett B, Pike I. (2015). Economic Burden of Injury in British Columbia. BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit: Vancouver, BC.
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