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Boating Accidents in Ontario - Zayouna Law Firm
Aug 5 2023 | Zayouna Admin

Boating Accidents in Ontario: Causes and Prevention

Accidents pose a serious risk to anyone enjoying Ontario’s beautiful lakes and rivers on a boat this summer. Boating accidents can lead to severe injuries, property damage, or worse. Each year about 160 people lose their lives in boating accidents in Canada. Often boating accidents can be prevented, or made less dire, by taking a few precautions before leaving the dock or while on the water. 

Understanding the common causes of boating accidents and adopting preventive measures is the first step for boaters to ensure the safety of themselves and others on the water. Let’s dive into the leading causes of boating accidents in Ontario and tips for staying safe this summer.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Ontario


Operator inexperience is one of the leading factors contributing to boating accidents in Ontario. Inexperienced boaters are more prone to accidents due to a lack of familiarity with navigation rules, weather conditions, and safe boating practices. 

New boaters should consider enrolling in a boater education course as a first step to improving their skills. Not only do these courses provide essential knowledge about navigation rules, emergency procedures, and the importance of situational awareness on the water, but graduating from the course will also earn you a discount on your insurance.

Impaired Driving

Operating a boat with a blood alcohol level above 0.08 is illegal in Ontario. Not only is it illegal, but driving a boat under the influence is also extremely dangerous. Alcohol is involved or suspected in more than 50% of boating fatalities. Intoxicated drivers may exhibit reduced reaction times, impaired judgment, and compromised coordination, making it difficult to safely navigate the waters and react to obstacles.


Like on the roads, excessive speed is a common factor in accidents on the water, particularly in congested areas. Operating a vessel at high speeds can lead to collisions with other boats or submerged objects, or even cause passengers to be thrown overboard.

Boaters must familiarize themselves with the speed limits imposed on specific waterways, and adjust their speed according to the prevailing conditions, such as heavy boat traffic, restricted visibility, or rough waters caused by inclement weather. 

Equipment Failure

Keeping your boat in good condition is almost as important as knowing how to operate it. Malfunctioning equipment, such as engine failures or steering problems, can easily lead to a serious accident even if you’ve done everything else right.

Regular maintenance, inspections, and proper repairs can help minimize the risk of accidents caused by equipment failures. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedules and perform routine checks of components, including the engine, steering mechanism, electrical systems, and safety equipment. It is also advisable to carry spare parts, tools, and emergency repair kits on board to address minor issues that may arise while out on the water.

Storms and Poor Weather Conditions

Ignoring weather forecasts and venturing out during storms, high winds, or poor weather conditions significantly increases the likelihood of boating accidents. Unpredictable weather can lead to capsizing, swamping, or difficulties in navigation, putting boaters and their passengers in harm’s way.

Boaters should regularly check weather forecasts and plan their outings accordingly. As well, boaters should familiarize themselves with the signs of changing weather conditions while on the water and be prepared to take action if a storm starts rolling in.

Tips For Preventing Boating Accidents in Ontario

By following proper safety precautions, many boating accidents and injuries can be avoided. Here are a few general best practices that can help reduce the chances of a boating accident.

Following Safety Guidelines and Carrying Safety Equipment

Compliance with Transport Canada’s boating safety regulations is essential for safe boating in Ontario. Boaters must be aware of and adhere to navigation rules, right-of-way regulations, and speed limits specific to the waterways they navigate. 

Carrying essential safety equipment on board is also a legal requirement, and helps to ensure preparedness in case of emergencies. Transport Canada requires specific safety equipment to be carried on boats depending on their size and type. These requirements may include: 

  • life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) for all occupants
  • navigation lights
  • sound-signaling devices
  • fire extinguishers
  • distress signals
  • A throwable flotation device. 

Ensure that all safety equipment is in good working order and easily accessible in case of an emergency.

Make a Sail Plan

Before setting sail, it is advisable to create a detailed sail plan that outlines the intended route, departure, and return times. This plan should also include information about the vessel, such as its registration number and description. This sail plan should be shared with a responsible person onshore, providing them with relevant contact information in case something goes wrong.

If a boater fails to return as scheduled or encounters difficulties on the water, the responsible person ashore can initiate appropriate action, such as contacting the authorities or search and rescue teams. This facilitates a prompt response and can potentially save lives in emergency situations.

Wear a Life Jacket

The Red Cross estimates that life jacket use could eliminate up to 90% of boating fatalities if used properly and diligently. Unfortunately, many boaters and passengers forgo their PFD, making for unnecessarily dangerous situations. In about a quarter of boating fatalities, life jackets were present on board, but not in use. 

In Ontario, the law requires boaters to carry a Canadian-approved life jacket or PFD for each person on board. Boaters should ensure that life jackets are in good condition, properly fitted, and accessible. It is recommended to wear a life jacket at all times while on the water, as accidents can happen unexpectedly, leaving little time to put on a life jacket in an emergency.

When to Seek Legal Help After a Boating Accident in Ontario

If you or a loved one has been involved in a boating accident in Ontario, seeking legal assistance will help carry the burden of pursuing fair compensation. Boating accidents can result in significant physical, emotional, and financial hardships, requiring victims to navigate a complex legal process.

A personal injury lawyer with experience in boating accidents can provide valuable guidance and support. They can assess the circumstances of the accident, gather relevant evidence, liaise with insurance companies, and advocate on your behalf. Additionally, a knowledgeable lawyer can help determine liability, evaluate potential compensation, and, if necessary, represent your interests in court.

At Zayouna Law Firm, our lawyers have a proven track record of success representing clients’ boating accident claims. We work diligently to help our clients seek compensation from insurance companies or negligent third parties. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident in Ontario, contact Zayouna Law Firm today to book a free consultation to discuss your case. 

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