Summer safety warning: water and alcohol don’t mix

The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report, released earlier this year, highlights the dangers of drinking alcohol before swimming, surfing, fishing and boating.

Sadly, the report showed that 280 people drowned in Australia between July 2015 and June 2016, an increase of five percent compared with the previous period.

Surprisingly, the greatest increase was among people aged between 25 and 34, with rates for this age group now at a 10-year high. They accounted for a fifth of all drowning deaths over the year, and more than four out of five victims were men.

By contrast, the rates for children under the age of five have dramatically reduced, approximately 30 percent lower than the 10-year average. This good news could be attributed to an increase in safety education and training for parents and young children — activities that perhaps need to be extended to all adults.

Analysis of the figures indicates the majority of incidents occurred on Sunday, peaking in the early afternoon. For Alison Mahony, the report’s author, the figures demonstrate a worrying relationship between alcohol, leisure and water.

Speaking with the ABC, she said: “We are seeing a typical picture of a young adult male swimming or boating on a Sunday afternoon … and alcohol is a key factor.”

Justin Scarr is the chief executive of the Royal Life Saving Society. He echoes Ms Mahony’s concerns that alcohol consumption is a major contributing factor.

“Men often overestimate their skills in and around the water. They underestimate things like currents and rips and they take unnecessary risks and often they’re in groups, small groups, and they’re consuming considerable amounts of alcohol,” he said.

The report also shows that experience with water activities or familiarity with the area does not reduce the risk. In 89 cases, the drowning victim knew the area and activity well.

The message is clear — if you’re going swimming, surfing, boating or fishing this summer, go sober and leave the alcohol at home.