Staycation safety tips
By Kirsten McMahon
Although travel restrictions have loosened and most provinces are trying to return to normal, many Canadians will face another summer of road trips and camping or cottaging.
For those not yet comfortable with air travel or staying in hotels, your annual family vacation will likely involve exploring your home province or other parts of the country. While this can be a safer way to vacation during the pandemic, it’s vital to keep other safety issues top of mind as well.
“We’ve been so hyper-focused on taking the appropriate precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 that, quite frankly, it’s easy to forget other safety measures,” says Seahold Legal Finance President, Larry Herscu.
Camping is so popular this year that Ontario had to clamp down on scalpers reselling campground reservations for up to five times more. As a result, parks have seen record-breaking demand for campsites in 2021, and bookings in the first three months of the year were up 135 per cent from the same period last year.
“If you’re a person who normally doesn’t go camping, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself on some safety basics,” says Herscu. “Parks Canada is a fantastic resource for info around campfires, wildlife and water safety.”
Always check if there’s a fire ban where you’re camping and keep your campfire small and under control. “Never leave a fire unattended,” he says.
Before hitting the road this summer, don’t forget essential maintenance like rotating tires, getting an oil change, refilling fluids, checking wiper blades, and the like.
“It’s important to get a tune-up and make sure everything is in good working condition before going on a road trip,” Herscu says. “It’s also a good time to review your insurance policies to make sure you are adequately covered.”
Make sure you’re familiar with the traffic rules of other provinces and be aware of your surroundings, he says. “If you are a member of a roadside assistance club, check their services and policies in advance of your vacation,” he says.
Distracted driving should also be avoided at all costs, he says.
“Even if you’re normally cautious of distracted driving, you can easily slide into bad behaviour on long drives — you’re lost and looking at Google maps or fiddling with the GPS, or your kids are arguing in the back seat. So anything that takes your eyes or your concentration off the road can be an issue,” Herscu says.
If you have to make a call, send a text or check a map, have a passenger do it for you or pull over to a rest area, he says.
To beat traffic, Herscu says sometimes drivers will either leave very early in the morning or late at night. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators reports that drowsiness factors into 21 per cent of car accidents in Canada.
“If you’re driving while tired, your reaction time is slower, you can lose focus, and your decision-making suffers,” he says.
Renting a waterfront cottage or planning a beach trip can help you beat the heat this summer, but it’s vital to keep water safety top of mind.
“Most people know how to stay safe around water, but once they are out and about, safety rules can slide or are forgotten.”
According to The Lifesaving Society (LSC), 77 per cent of all drownings occur between May and September, and there is an uptick in drownings among Canadian adults 65 to 74 years old. In addition, a recent study shows that age group was more likely to drown in natural open water and represents a significant proportion of deaths while boating.
“The most recent drowning data from coroner’s offices indicates that on average, between 450 to 500 people drown in Canada each year. Older adults (65+) represent 22 per cent of all drownings, and their drowning rate per 100,000 population is 42 per cent higher than the overall drowning rate. Among older adults who drowned, 73 per cent were alone, and 80 per cent were found not wearing a lifejacket while boating,” the report states.
“If you’re renting a waterfront cottage, check with the host to see if life jackets or PFDs are available and make sure they put them on,” Herscu says. “As well, don’t swim or drive your boat while impaired.”
Keeping safety top of mind will help to ensure that everyone in your family has fun this summer and beyond, he says.