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New drowning statistics ‘a sobering reminder’ of risks taken in and around water

New drowning statistics ‘a sobering reminder’ of risks taken in and around water
October 10, 2013

The latest Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report reveals a steep increase in drowning in people aged 55 years and over. This age group now accounts for over a third (39%, 114 deaths) of all drownings in Australian waterways between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013.

Releasing the 2013 National Drowning Report 2013 Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) Chief Executive Justin Scarr says this latest report is "a sobering reminder about the risks we take in and around the water".

The report shows 291 people drowned in Australian waterways during the 12 month period of the survey, a 5% increase on the number of people who drowned in the previous year.

The report reveals, after several years of decline, there has been a sharp increase in the number of children under 5 drowning. Royal Life Saving says this is a disturbing reversal of the downward trend that has been seen in the previous four years.

31 young lives (aged 0 to 4 years) were lost last year in pools, dams and bathtubs across the country (a 48% increase on the previous year). In half the cases, children accessed an unfenced pool or got into the pool because of a faulty or propped open gate.

Inland waterways continue to account for the largest number of drowning deaths this year (34%) claiming the lives of 99 people.

Males continue to drown at a very disturbing rate, which is 4.5 times that of women.

82% of all deaths last year were males - 238 males compared to 53 females (18%).

Scarr adds that the latest Report is "a sobering reminder about the risks we take in and around water and why we must all do more to prevent drowning."

Overall, the report shows:

• There has been a clear and steep increase in drowning among people aged 55 years and over.

• People aged 55 plus now account for over a third (39%) of all drowning deaths in Australia, a total of 114 people in this age group drowned.

• Inland waterways accounted for the largest number of drowning deaths this year.

• Royal Life Saving warns inland waterways (rivers, creeks, lakes and dams) claimed the lives of 99 people. This represented 34% of all drowning deaths in 2012/13.

• This has prompted an urgent focus on identifying inland drowning black spots in communities across Australia.

• There has been a concerning increase in the number of drowning deaths among people aged 55 to 64. There has been a 36% increase in this age group on the 10 year average.

• The report reveals there has been a sharp increase in drowning in children under the age of 5 - after several years of decline.

• Tragically 31 young lives were lost last year in pools, dams and bathtubs.

• Overall this is a 48% increase on the previous year. 61% of children aged under 5 (19) drowned in swimming pools.

• In half the cases, the child accessed an unfenced pool or entered the pool area via a faulty or propped open gate.

• This is an increase of 10 deaths - 21 children under 5 drowned in 2011/12.

• Royal Life Saving warns males continue to drown at a disturbing rate which is 4.5 times that of women.

• 82% of all drowning deaths in Australia are now males - 238 males drowned last year compared to 53 females.

Making further comment on the findings, Scarr stated "men must stop and think before taking unnecessary risks whilst they are swimming, fishing or boating with their fathers, brothers and mates this summer.

"There are three simple ways to stop men drowning this summer; less alcohol, greater use of PFDs, and exercise more caution with the weather."

"Far too many families are being impacted in a devastating way by drowning. Our goal is to see drowning halved by the year 2020. So much more obviously has to be done. It's clear that Australians need to take much greater notice of the dangers our waterways present."

Royal Life Saving says a lack of adult supervision is still the number one issue in child drowning with falls into water accountingd for 81% of all drowning deaths in the under 5 age group.

When it comes to people aged 55 plus drowning, the number of deaths continues to rise. Royal LifeSaving says 114 people aged 55 years and over drowned in 2012/13. It is the highest number of drowning deaths for people aged 55 plus for 10 years. It represents a 31% increase on the 10 year average.

Commenting on the gender of those who drown, Scarr continued "men are not getting the message. 82% of all drowning deaths are males. This is very alarming. We have got to create a long term culture of water safety around water.

"Obviously males can help in a big way by modelling water safe behaviours around children.

"The number of people drowning in inland waterways is extremely concerning.

"Many of these deaths sadly happen in regional or remote areas of Australia.

"These areas are often isolated and a long way from help in an emergency. The high number of inland drowning deaths has prompted an urgent focus on identifying and then acting on inland drowning black spots in communities across the country."

65 people drowned last year at Australian beaches - an increase of 17 on the 10 year average. 45 of the drownings were in ocean or harbour locations - similar to the 2011/2012 figure.

Here Scarr stated "we are committed to working collaboratively with other water safety and drowning prevention organisations such as Surf Life Saving Australia and AUSTSWIM to achieve the goals of the Australian Water Safety Strategy."

The Royal Life Saving Drowning Report 2013 also identifies drowning risk factors that play a role in some of the 291 drowning deaths in 2012/13. Underlying medical conditions can increase the risk of drowning and are most commonly found in people aged 55 plus. Conditions associated with increased risk of drowning include cardiac conditions and epilepsy.

The role of drugs and alcohol is also identified with a number of people who died recording positive readings for either alcohol or some form of drug (either legal or illicit). Royal Life Saving says the significant levels of intoxication around water are concerning with 81% of those who drowned with alcohol in their system recording a positive blood alcohol reading significantly higher than the 0.05 legal limit for driving and operating watercraft.

Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2013 – Key Findings

• 291 people drowned in Australian waterways between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• 238 (82%) males and 53 (18%) females drowned

• 31 (11%) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 0-4 years

• 9 (3%) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 5-14 years

• 26 (9%) drowning deaths occurred in young people aged 15 to 24 years

• 114 (39%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 55 years and over

• 99 (34%) drowning deaths occurred in inland waterways

• 65 (22%) drowning deaths occurred at beaches

Drownings by state:

• New South Wales - 104 drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• Queensland - 64 drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• Western Australia - 46 drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• Victoria - 41 drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• South Australia - 14 drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• Northern Territory - nine drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

• Tasmania - nine drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013.

• Australian Capital Territory - four drowning deaths between 1st July 2012 and 30th June 2013

For more information go to www.royallifesaving.com.au

24th October 2012 - DECLINE IN WATER SKILLS LEADS TO RISE IN DROWNINGS

20th September 2012 - LATEST DROWNING FIGURES MAKE 'BLEAK READING'

12th April 2010 - GOULD: LEARNING TO SWIM IN RIVERS, LAKES WILL SAVE LIVES


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