How Many Lives Can a Lifejacket Save?

opp boating

Ahead of Safe Boating Awareness Week, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) hopes all boaters and paddlers avoid having a similar outcome to last year’s 23 marine fatality victims – the majority of whom were found not wearing a lifejacket. 

The number of lives that could be saved if every boater and paddler wore a lifejacket during every boat ride is not difficult to measure when looking at OPP data associated with fatal boating/paddling incidents.

For 21 of the 23 people who lost their lives in boating/paddling incidents in 2023, their vessel either capsized or they fell overboard. Seventeen of those who died were not wearing a lifejacket. Surviving these types of incidents usually comes down to whether or not you choose to wear a lifejacket which, when properly worn, will keep you afloat the entire time you are in the water.

With approximately half of last year’s marine fatalities involving kayaks, canoes and other non-motorized vessels, paddlers are reminded that they are just as vulnerable when it comes to capsizing or falling overboard without a lifejacket. With these two primary causes accounting for the majority of OPP-investigated marine fatalities every year, a large number of boaters/paddlers would have likely survived their ordeal on the water had they worn a lifejacket. 

Alcohol/drug-use and collisions with other vessels or fixed objects remain other lead contributing factors in marine deaths on OPP-patrolled waterways.

The OPP is reminding boaters and paddlers that the only enjoyable day on the water is the one that is safe, and the only lifejacket that can save your life is the one that you’re wearing.

During Safe Boating Awareness Week, boaters and paddlers are encouraged to raise their awareness about every aspect of safe traveling on waterways. Over and above wearing the right lifejacket or personal floatation device and boating sober and drug-free, ensure you and your vessel are prepared and safe for the season, take a boating course, be alert and ensure you are cold water safe.


The OPP Marine Program has a fleet of 152 vessels and 365 skilled marine officers committed to enforcing boating laws and the safety of Ontario boaters on more than 110,000 square kilometres (95 per cent) of Ontario’s lakes and rivers.

Safe Boating Awareness Week is an annual, national campaign led by the Canadian Safe Boating Council. This year’s campaign runs from May 18-24, 2024.


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