Safety issues: Alcohol and… recreational activities?

When you think about spending a Saturday afternoon at the beach, golfing, boating, or snowmobiling, what else do you think about? For many Canadians, alcohol consumption is often associated with leisurely activities. Primarily, people tend to drink in social contexts – such as at bars or during recreational activities with friends. Unfortunately, recreational activities paired with alcohol consumption can also involve operation of motorized vehicles. 

Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving: these dangers have been demonstrated by carefully controlled research studies showing that the risks of collisions, injuries and death increase dramatically with higher levels of drinking. For example, an individual with blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.2% is approximately 82 times more likely to be involved in a collision than their sober counterpart.

Yet, drinking and driving a car is only one of many activities that can be dangerous when consuming alcohol. One recent review paper on incidence of drowning found that between 30% and 70% of victims had been drinking prior to the accident. Moreover, having a BAC level of 0.1% while boating increases your risk of death by 10 times. Luckily, Canadians are increasingly aware of the risks of alcohol consumption around open water, with officials in some areas now strictly enforcing the consequences of bringing booze to the beach.

Alcohol not only affects a person’s recreational water activities, but their winter recreational activities as well. In a 5-year study of snowmobile-related deaths in Ontario, 69% of the 131 people who died while snowmobiling were under the influence of alcohol. Clearly, we need to increase Canadians’ awareness of the risks associated with impaired boating, snowmobiling or other recreational activities. Given that alcohol affects the central nervous system – thereby decreasing our inhibitions, increasing our reaction times, as well as affecting our vision, judgment, balance, and coordination – how can we ensure our leisure times are both fun and safe?   

Should we continue to prohibit alcohol consumption on beaches and by waterways? 

 

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Authors, from left to right: Chantele Joordens, Scott Macdonald 

 

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