Random checks for boat licenses and lifejackets have started
The summer boating season really hasn’t kicked into high gear but before operators head out onto the waters it’s important to know it’s been a year since the new boating regulations began in Canada.
Which means local policing agencies are preparing for another season of patrolling the docks and waters surrounding Nelson.
The regulations, which began April 2011, require that all boat operators with a motorized boat have a license, there is a properly fitting lifejacket for every person on board the boat, whether they are wearing it or not, and no operating the boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
As part of the new regulations, police officers now can ticket violations on site rather than having to go through the courts as they did before.
If a police officer should find any of those items in violation, the boat owner could face $200 for the first missing lifejacket and $100 for each additional missing jacket and as much as a $250 fine for not having an operators license.
Driving under the influence is a criminial offence and follows the same consquences as on the road.
In this region police have limited access to boats and staff to patrol all the lakes and rivers over the busy summer season.
In the entire region there is only three boats and one of those is used for search and rescue while another one is based in Christina Lake were a reserve constable is on full-time duty all summer, said West Kootenay RCMP staff sergeant Dan Seibel.
But, like on the roads, police will crop up at random times and situations to make their checks, said Castlegar RCMP Corporal Daniel Pollack.
“We have targeted days,” said Pollack. “When the weather is warm and we think people will be out in the water we do checks.”
Policing waterways is inter-jurisdictional between Castlegar RCMP, West Kootenay RCMP in Nelson and the Nelson Police Department.
Last year none of the departments had significant statistics of violations as a result of the new regulations.
The Nelson Police Department is responsible for most of the water surrounding the City of Nelson.
In 2011 NPD followed up on several incidents involving the same person who was driving his boat under the influence of alcohol. They successfully charge him with driving a boat under the influence, which has the same consquences as driving a vehicle under the influence.
“(The regulations) are good,” said Nelson Police Department acting sergeant Paul Bayes. “There’s no difference between operating a boat and a car.”
He went on to say that a person is in more jeopardy when driving a boat if they have a mishap because not only does speed kill, but so does water.
To help crack down on the impaired boating, licensing and safety checks the Nelson Police Department adds extra patrols both on and off the water during the busy summer season.
What the Nelson Police Department doesn’t cover the Nelson RCMP do — which includes much of Kootenay Lake and Arrow Lake.
Seibel said policing the water can be challenging. There isn’t enough staff to be continually patrolling on the water while also addressing their regular duties.
RCMP staff sergeant would like to bring in some extra help through by some reserve constables who serve the entire southeast district of BC in the summer.
“I’m hoping to get them into our area and have random checks thoughout out our region,” said Seibel.
He said the new regulations are great, especially because they are also required for people renting boats as well as boat owners.
“Prior to the regulations it was not uncommon for tourists to be given the key to a boat (without licensing),” said Seibel.
“It would be like giving a youngster a key to the car … And with the element of water, one could argue it makes this much more dangerous.”
Seibel used to work for Kelowna RCMP prior to 2000 where a boat patrol spent 40 hours a week on the water. In Nelson there is virutally no enforcement done on the water due to limited resources. So most checks are done off the docks.
“We’re doing the best we can with the resources we’re provided with,” he said.
For more information about boating licenses, courses and safety visit www.boatingsafety.gc.ca
The boating exam can be done online through Boat Smart Canada at www.boatsmartexam.com which is a national boating safety school accredited by Transport Canada.
The Boat Smart team will also be appearing periodically at the Canadian Tire in Castlegar.