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Royal Life Saving and James Cook University researchers to breathalyse swimmers

Royal Life Saving and James Cook University researchers to breathalyse swimmers
January 22, 2018

Researchers will be breathalysing and surveying river users at popular river locations over the next month, including the Murray River at Albury, in an effort to find answers to the nation’s river drowning problem.

Principal investigator Amy Peden, National Manager of Research and Policy at Royal Life Saving Society - Australia and PhD Candidate at James Cook University (JCU), has been investigating drowning deaths in rivers for several years.

Peden explains “the culture of drinking while swimming, boating and fishing at local rivers is a big part of the drowning problem. Understanding how commonplace drinking is, and how it influences risk taking is one of the main reasons we’re collecting this data in the field.”

Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Justin Scarr said the research is a world-first and is supported by funding from the Australian Government for Royal Life Saving’s Respect the River program, advising “this program is all about raising awareness of drowning risk factors and equipping everyone with the skills to enjoy our beautiful rivers, creeks and streams safely.”

Rivers are the leading location for drowning in Australia, with an average of 74 drowning deaths per year. In addition, Royal Life Saving research shows that for each fatal drowning, a further three people are hospitalised due to a non-fatal drowning incident. Alcohol is known to be a major contributing factor.

Peden stated “identifying alcohol consumption patterns and attitudes towards drinking and aquatic activity are vital given the strong association between alcohol and river drowning. It’s thought alcohol consumption leads to increased risk taking, and a failure to see dangers like snags, current and rocks until it is too late.”

Peden said the average blood alcohol content (BAC) of adult drowning victims in Australia is 0.20%, adding “that’s four times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle or a boat. We need to better understand why people are taking such risks.”

The research is part of a range of studies conducted by Royal Life Saving and JCU examining the epidemiology, risk factors and strategies for the prevention of unintentional drowning in rivers.

Peden said she hopes it will contribute to the saving of lives both in Australia and internationally as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates drowning claims an estimated 372,000 lives per year, many in rivers in developing countries, including across the Asia Pacific region.

Research by the two organisations has already contributed to key education initiatives highlighting the risks of drinking and swimming with the release of the ‘Don’t Let Your Mates Drink and Drown’ campaign, targeting males aged 18 to 34 years.

JCU Associate Professor Richard Franklin is the study’s supervisor and co-investigator, concluding “it’s great to see this partnership tackling challenges in our backyard, especially considering the high toll river-related drowning deaths place on regional and remote communities. James Cook University is proud to be a partner in this research which will continue to save lives, long after it’s complete.”

Research will be conducted at key river drowning blackspots in both Queensland and NSW across January and February, with results to be published in academic journals.

For more information on the Respect the River program go to www.royallifesaving.com.au/respecttheriver

Images: Swimmers on the Murray River (top) and Royal Life Saving have long campaigned on the dangers of mixing alcohol and swimming (below)

7th December 2017 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING REPORT DEMONSTRATES WELLNESS BENEFITS OF AQUATIC FACILITIES 

2nd July 2017 - GROUNDBREAKING STUDY SHOWS THE WELLNESS BENEFITS OF SWIMMING 

30th June 2017 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING REPORT REVEALS NON-FATAL DROWNING INCIDENTS ARE ON THE RISE 

30th December 2016 - SWIMMERS WARNED OVER SOUTHERLY SPREAD OF IRUKANDJI JELLYFISH

15th September 2016 - NEW REPORT SHOWS NO IMPROVEMENT IN ANNUAL DROWNING FIGURES

24th March 2016 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING HIGHLIGHTS RIVER SAFETY FOR EASTER LONG WEEKEND 

23rd February 2016 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING WARNS OF DROWNING DANGERS IN INLAND WATER

24th January 2016 - 59 DROWN IN WATERWAYS SINCE START OF DECEMBER

25th October 2015 - MURRAY RIVER THE NUMBER ONE RIVER DROWNING BLACK SPOT IN AUSTRALIA

16th September 2015 - DROWNINGS HIGHLIGHT NEED TO TAKE MORE CARE AROUND WATER


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The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

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