With more great weather in the forecast, the OPP stated it will be ready for the many eager Ontarians and tourists travelling to and from recreational destinations and officers will be well-resourced to deal with those who disobey traffic laws on roads, waterways and trails.
With a summer that is shaping up to be one of the warmest on record comes an increased public presence on roads, lakes and trails, according to the OPP. Sadly, the number of fatalities, especially drownings, is rising by the week.
"I am deeply saddened by the number of drownings this year and this serves as an important reminder that exercising water safety is not just for boaters, it is equally critical where swimming and any other activities in and around water occur," OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis. "When it comes to drownings, whether related to boating incidents or otherwise, the one common factor they all carry is that they are among the most preventable tragedies of all.”
Almost 60 people have drowned in Ontario this year, according to the OPP. Last week, two children drowned on Manitoulin Island. A six-year-old boy drowned on July 22 at Wikwemikong, while a 21-month-old child drowned on July 23 at South Bay. Earlier in the month, on July 7, a 22-year-old man died when he jumped off Gibraltar Rock on the French River and didn't resurface.
The deaths of the two children in particular are bucking a trend noted by Ontario's Chief Coroner, Dr. Andrew McCallum, who said in a press release that while drowning deaths of children under the age of five have dropped significantly in recent years - from 13 in 2010 to just three in 2011 - alcohol remains a prevalent risk factor in many drowning deaths.
In June 2011, the Office of the Chief Coroner released a report on accidental drowning deaths following a review of deaths that occurred between May and September 2010. The review revealed some startling statistics about alcohol and drowning deaths, as well as the use of life-jackets.
The report pointed to four key recommendations for individuals:
-Learn to swim - swimming is a basic life skill that everyone should be taught regardless of age.
-Wear a life-jacket or a personal flotation device - even if you are a strong swimmer, as fatigue can set in very quickly.
-Adults should closely supervise children at all times around water. Children can drown quickly and quietly.
-Alcohol should be avoided when swimming or boating.
And, while Ontario's roads rank among the safest in North America, according to the OPP, ultimately safety is the responsibility of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
"Tragedy could be only an inattentive moment away - I urge all Ontarians to stay alert and obey the laws to help keep our province's roads safe this weekend,” Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Transportation, said.
According to the OPP Highway Safety Division (HSD), road fatalities are up nearly 25 per cent this year, with 202 persons having died in motor-vehicle collisions to date (as of July 29, 2012) compared to 162 fatalities this same time last year.
“This coming weekend our officers will focus their enforcement efforts on drivers, boaters and trail users who drink and drive, drive aggressively or while distracted and those who are not compliant with seatbelt and boating laws,” Chief Superintendent Don Bell, HSD Commander, said. “We will also have an extra set of eyes on speeders from the skies, as our OPP Cessna conducts aircraft enforcement throughout the province over the weekend.”
The OPP is also reminding the public to wear personal floatation devices (PFD) when heading out on the water this weekend. Five people have died so far this summer in boating incidents in which lack of PFD use was a factor.
Posted by Arron Pickard