Why compare? Boating and cycling are both recreational activities involving children and both involve the risk of injury and death, yet the health and safety regulatory response in Canada has not been the same.

Eight provinces have mandatory wear laws for bicycle helmets, some for those under 18, some for all ages.[1] When we look at lifejackets and personal floatation devices, with the exception of the City of Calgary, Alberta,[2] a properly fitting lifejacket/PFD for each passenger is only required to be on board the vessel, not worn. [3]

This is despite the statistics which show that ten times more people drown per year in Canada than perish as a result of cycling accidents. Drowning accounted for 444 deaths per year between 2012 and 2016, a rate of 1.3 per 100,000.[4] When compared with cycling deaths, Statistics Canada reported an average of 74 deaths per year between 2012 and 2017, a rate of 1.3 per million.[5] The statistics further show that the average number of children that drown during powered and non-powered boating activities is comparable with the number of children that die as a result of cycling accidents.[6]

Drowning is also the cause of a significant number of hospitalizations in Canada, with 1,340 in total having occurred between 2010 and 2017.  53% of those hospitalizations were children under the age of 19.[7] The hospitalization numbers for cycling related head injuries, although higher, are comparable with 212 hospitalizations per year between 2006 and 2011 for children aged 12-17.[8]

Lifejackets and PFDs save children’s lives and prevent injury, as do bicycle helmets. As matter of child public safety, lifejackets/PFDs should be mandatory for children to wear in small vessels.

At Life Jackets for Life, we believe preventable child drownings and injuries in recreational boating deserve the same regulatory response that cycling injuries and deaths have received. Canada’s children deserve no less.

Change the law. Save a Life.

[1] The Canadian Pediatric Society, Bicycle Helmet Use in Canada: The Need for Legislation to Reduce the Risk of Head Injury; 2013 updated 11/11/20 at p.7.
[2]  Read city of Calgary information here
[3] See the Small Vessel Regulation, SOR/2010-91 Parts 2, 3 and 4.
[4] Drowning Prevention Research Centre, Canada, Canadian Drowning Report, prepared for the Lifesaving Society, 2019 edition at p. 2.
[5] Statistics Canada, Circumstances Surrounding Cycling Fatalities in Canada 2006-2017, Health Fact Sheets, Release Date, July31st, 2019.
[6] See Supra, note 5 at p. 2 and Supra, note 4 at p.10 – 23% of drowning related deaths occurred during powered and non-powered boating.
[7] Teschke,Kay; Koehoorn, Mieke; Shen, Hui Shen; Dennis, Jessica; Bicycling injury hospitalisation rates in Canadian jurisdictions: analyses examining associations with helmet legislation and mode share; BMJ Open, 2015 at p. 6. See: url: https://www.velo.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/etude-teschke-casque-2015.pdf
[8] Government of Canada Public Health Infobase; Data Blog: Drowning Related Deaths and Injuries; see url: https://www.velo.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/etude-teschke-casque-2015.pdf