According to Boat Smart Canada, more than 80% of boating-related drownings in 2011 could have been prevented if the person involved was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket.
What's the difference? Lifejackets can turn an unconscious person face up in the water, whereas PFDs might be more comfortable but are not designed to help an unconscious person right themselves. A third option, inflatable PFDs, are an option for people 16 years and older but only for specific activities.
In Canada, it's the law that each passenger on a boat requires their own PFD. If you're caught without the correct number of devices, you'll be fined $200 for the first missing unit and $100 for each additional missing piece.
While it's legal for boaters simply to have the units on board, Boat Smart (and many experts agree) it's best to wear a lifejacket while on the water - it's common for lifesaving devices to float away or become inaccessible in the event of an emergency. This applies to canoes, kayaks, and Personal Water Craft (which also require a buoyant heaving line of not less than 15 m in length).
When choosing a devise, consider the following tips:
1. Choose a device that is appropriate, and approved, for the activity you're taking on (e.g. sports require a jacket with three tight straps across the chest for maximum safety).
2. Make sure it's approved for use in Canada.
3. Make sure it fits - choose the right style for children, youth, and adults.
4. Make sure you are wearing it correctly. Buckles and straps shouldn't be dangling, nor should zippers be left hanging open - they're on the unit for a reason. Do them all up!
5. Do a pre-season check in the water - especially important for children and youth, to ensure it fits and performs correctly.
Remember - it won't work if you don't wear it!
A PFD is a powerful safety tool, but only when used correctly. For more information from Transport Canada, click here.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia