Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Report urges water safety at inland waterways this summer

A report into the incidence of inland water drownings in Victoria was released ahead of Water Safety Week this week.

December 5, 2012 4:15am

District residents and holiday makers are being urged to take care on waterways over the summer holiday period.

The 2011-12 Victorian Drowning Report released last week revealed an increase in drowning incidents over the previous year’s record low.

The Loddon region recorded two drowning deaths, the same number that occurred in the region in the previous year.

Key findings from the report include:

more than half (20) of Victoria’s 37 drowning deaths occurred in inland waterways;

there were 10 drowning deaths (27 per cent) in 2011-12 where alcohol was reportedly consumed by the individual prior to drowning;

males remain four times more likely to drown, with 29 males drowning in 2011-12, compared to eight females; and

there was an increase in infant and toddler drowning deaths in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11.

For the first time, this year’s Victorian drowning report includes statistics on non-fatal drowning incidents.

From 2001-11, there was an average of 104 hospitalisations each year, the equivalent of almost three non-fatal drowning incidents for every death.

Children aged zero to four were at greatest risk of such incidents, with the highest age-specific rate of 10.83 per 100,000 population.

This data also revealed a 17 per cent increase in hospitalisations in children aged 5-14 years in recent years.

Life Saving Victoria research and injury prevention manager Dr Bernadette Matthews said data of non-fatal drowning incidents helped paint a fuller picture.

‘‘This data shows that there are many more drowning incidents than we have been aware of,’’ she said.

‘‘Some of the key risks areas we have seen this year for drowning include inland waterways such as rivers, creeks, lakes and dams.

‘‘Inland waterways can look calm but are often very dangerous; there can be strong currents as well as submerged objects that aren’t easily visible.

‘‘Flooding over recent years in Victoria has seen much more water across the state and changed conditions in many waterways.

‘‘Always read safety signs, check the depth and check for hazards before you jump or dive in and never swim alone.’’

Alcohol continues to be a key risk factor, with 10 drowning deaths (27 per cent) in 2011-12 where alcohol was reportedly consumed by the individual prior to drowning.

‘‘Drinking or taking drugs around water affects your swimming ability and judgement of dangerous situations, increasing your risk of drowning,’’ Dr Matthews said.

‘‘Many drowning deaths are preventable, so we must continue to be vigilant about water safety.’’

The report was launched in the lead up to Water Safety Week, which runs until December 9 and encourages Victorians to enjoy the water safely this summer.

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