Victorians are being urged to heed vital water safety messages over summer with the state last year recording its worst drowning toll in two decades.
Figures released today by Life Saving Victoria (LSV) show that there were 157 drowning incidents in Victoria over the last financial year, including 56 drowning deaths and 101 non-fatal drowning incidents attended by paramedics.
Speaking at the launch of the 2018/19 Drowning Report and Water Safety Week on Sunday, LSV’s Principal Research Associate Dr Bernadette Matthews said the report highlighted an alarming increase in the state’s drowning rate and some worrying trends.
“Last year there were 17 more deaths than the 10-year average, or a 29 per cent increase in the fatal drowning rate,” Dr Matthews said.
“Older adults are more likely to drown than children – the report shows a 71 per cent increase in the drowning rate for those aged 65 years and over compared to the 10-year average, while adults 45-64 had the second highest drowning rate of all age groups.”
The data also shows a spike in people dying from drowning in the ocean, beaches, rivers, creeks and streams, with a 46 per cent increase in drowning deaths for coastal waterways and a 49 per cent increase for inland waterways compared to the 10-year average.
“Concerningly, we have seen an increase in drowning deaths among people who didn’t even intend to enter the water. Unintentional entry into water – via slips, trips and falls – was the most common activity just prior to drowning last year, accounting for almost half (46 per cent) of all drowning deaths,” Dr Matthews said.
Dr Matthews said the start of summer was a critical time of year for people to pay attention to water safety messages – especially as almost half of the drowning deaths last year took place in the summer months (46 per cent).
“There were 26 deaths over summer last year, the highest crude number in more than 20 years. Figures like this are even more heartbreaking because we know, through campaigns like Play it Safe by the Water (PISBTW), that drowning deaths are entirely preventable and simple safety measures can make all the difference between a great day out and a tragedy.”
“We urge all Victorians to play it safe by the water by swimming between the flags, reading safety signs to understand dangers, being aware and prepared for the conditions, always swimming with a friend, and avoiding alcohol around water.”
You can find the full report on the LSV website.