August 1, 2020

Good times will be had this long weekend, and it will undoubtedly be spent on the water for many Manitobans.

While one expert says most of us get the message to not drink and drive on our roadways, the feelings around drinking on a boat are much more relaxed — and they shouldn’t be.

That’s why the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba which has teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Winnipeg to warn people about the dangers of having a few drinks while on the water this long weekend.

“It’s a much more dangerous circumstance than drinking and driving because the effects of the intoxication are going to be increased,” says Chris Love of the Lifesaving Society.

“You have the waves bopping the boat, the wind is blowing over you and the sun is beating down — dehydrating you and concentrating that alcohol in your system.”

On average, 22 Manitobans die from drowning every year and Love says five to six can usually be attributed to alcohol.

Not only are there inherent risks involved with drinking while on a boat, it can hurt your wallet too, especially as law enforcement ramp up patrols on Manitoba’s waterways this long weekend.

“The penalty under the criminal code is ‘Impaired Operation of a Motor Vehicle’,” Love explains, “and it doesn’t make a distinction whether it’s a car, motorcycle or powerboat.”

“[If] you have a motor on your boat, if you or anyone else is consuming alcohol — you fall under that section.”

The minimum penalty in Canada for a first offence of boating while under the influence will cost you $600.

Manitoba’s drinking and driving penalties are the same as they are for someone who drinks and pilots a boat.

“It could be losing your driver’s licence, your boat could be impounded, and depending on the exact circumstances, you could also be criminally charged, arrested and put in jail if it’s not your first offence or there are other contributing factors,” Love explains.

Those factors are determined by local law enforcement when they pull a boat over.

If the driver doesn’t touch the drinks, but everyone else on the boat does – a still fine still awaits.

Love adds while you should leave the cooler behind, you should be sure to bring along life jackets.

“The law says you just have to have a life jacket on board for every person that’s there, but we argue you need to be wearing it.”

“Just like a seatbelt — it’s too late to put it on after the incident has occurred.”

“You may have already been thrown from the boat, and you may be a good swimmer, but you might not be able to swim 4 to 5 kilometres back to shore.”