Life Saving Victoria urges New Year’s caution as drowning toll rises

Life Saving Victoria is urging New Year’s Eve revellers to be careful when drinking alcohol near the water.

The drowning toll in Victoria from 1 July 2018 to 26 December 2018 has risen to 25, which is 7 seven more than the five-year average for the same time period.

Alcohol was a factor in 23 per cent of drowning incidents in Victoria in the 2017/18 financial year.

Notably, there has been an average of 11 alcohol-related drowning deaths per year over the past decade, representing 27 per cent of annual drowning numbers.

In many cases, people who have been drinking make poor decisions about entering the water, or they unintentionally slip or fall in.

There was an 83 per cent increase in fatal drownings of people who were swimming, paddling, or wading prior to drowning last financial year.

“People need to stop thinking that it will never happen to them and realise that alcohol affects everyone, even experienced swimmers,” says Life Saving Victoria’s Dr Bernadette Matthews.

“Alcohol not only affects your judgement of situations, but also your ability to respond and react,” says Dr Matthews. “Around the water, this means you are more likely to fall or make a mistake and less likely to be able to get yourself out of trouble.”

She encourages Victorians to keep socially responsible by drinking alcohol separate to their water activities this New Year.

“It’s important to look out for your mates around water, and always have a designated non-drinker who can look out for your safety and respond in case of an emergency,” says Dr Matthews.

If you are planning to celebrate the New Year in Melbourne’s CBD, Life Saving Victoria is also reminding people it’s prohibited to swim in the Yarra River from the Westgate Bridge to Abbottsford.

“There are a lot of hidden dangers in the Yarra River, such as strong currents, debris and submerged objects. It’s also very cold,’’ says Dr Matthews.

“There may also be unprotected and unstable edges along the river so it’s very easy to slip and fall in.’’

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