Life jackets and alcohol a focus for Southern Georgian Bay OPP marine unit

23 people have died in marine fatalities on OPP-patrolled waterways so far this year

The Southern Georgian Bay OPP marine unit will be make a splash during the Labour Day weekend.

So far this year, 23 people have died in marine incidents on OPP-patrolled waterways. Police say the biggest cause of these deaths is the lack of life jackets.

Southern Georgian Bay OPP Constable Aaron Coulter says life jackets are always a focus of marine officers.

He says having a life jacket on your boat is nice, but to be wearing it is ideal.

“Often if somebody is in the water, it’s too late to do something about it.”

Coulter says with the impact of COVID, police have seen many new boaters out on the water including many people with stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes who might not always be familiar with the rules of the water.

“It’s so easy in a small vessel like that to end up in the water. Without a life jacket, it can end up in tragedy.”

Image provided -Southern Georgian Bay OPP

The marine unit will also be keeping tabs on those who decide it’s okay to drink and boat.

“Penalties for boating while impaired are the same as driving while impaired,” says Coulter. “We want to make sure that people are not drinking on the water. We’re going to be out testing and checking for alcohol on boats, and doing breath tests on people, if necessary, who have been drinking.”

The marine unit is surprised to see this late in the boating season the number of liquor offences and the number of operators with insufficient life jackets on their vessel.

Over the August 18-31, 2021 period, the marine unit checked 113 vessels and operators for signs of impairment and ensuring proper safety equipment was on board during their 97 hours of patrol. 40 operators were educated on a variety of minor violations under the Canada Shipping Act (CSA) and officers also responded to 20 water based calls for service. Six operators provided breath samples for analysis on the screening device (ASD) resulting in three drivers licence suspensions as per the sanctions of the Ministry of Transportation (ADLS) .

Focused patrols were conducted and will continue to be to be conducted over the weekend along the Tiny Township shoreline, Giants Tomb, Six Mile Lake, Trent Severn System, Beckwith/Christian/Hope Islands and Gloucester Pool areas along with educational visits to area marina’s giving the boating public an opportunity to learn of safe boating practises