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Drowning warning as Australia Day nears

Royal Life Saving Society research shows drownings nearly double on public holidays

Royal Life Saving Society research shows drownings nearly double on public holidays Photo: AAP

Drowning deaths spike on holidays, leading to renewed warnings to take care on beaches and waterways as Australia Day approaches.

Royal Life Saving Society research shows drownings nearly double on public holidays and long weekends as people flock to the water.

This summer, there have been at least 43 drowning deaths reported nationwide although that total is less than two-thirds the toll at the same point in 2022.

Six of the deaths occurred on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Ahead of Australia Day on Thursday, lifesavers asked men to take extra care of themselves and their friends while in the water as males

accounted for three-quarters of those who died over the summer period.
Several men who drowned while trying to rescue their children from the surf, including a 45-year-old father who died at Lennox Head last week.

Royal Life Saving chief executive Justin Scarr said the biggest single factor in drowning deaths nationwide was alcohol.

Over the decade to 2020/21, more than one quarter of drowning deaths in inland waterways involved a person with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.05 per cent – the legal limit for driving.

“If you’ve had a few drinks, your co-ordination levels drop and you lose your inhibitions,” Mr Scarr said.

He added that in situations where drowning was a risk, such as a boat tipping or being struck by a wave, people needed to be able to think clearly and react quickly.

“Leave the booze until safely away from the water, look out for your mates and pull them into line if they’re under the influence and thinking about doing something reckless near water such as swimming or boating,” he said.

Mr Scarr also said life jackets were an essential lifesaving device for people to wear when appropriate, while it was important that people entering the water didn’t go out alone.

Royal Life Saving summer drowning toll

* Since summer began, there have been at least 43 drownings Australia-wide, including nine children.

* The vast majority of drownings occurred in either inland or coastal waterways.

* Last summer 145 people drowned, making it the worst summer in more than 20 years. This year’s summer toll is less than two-thirds the toll at the same point in 2021/22.

Topics: drowning
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