More people are continuing to drown in inland waters such as rivers, lakes and canals than in any other type of water, according to new data from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
The figures show the need for people to think before they head out to enjoy the water this Bank Holiday weekend.
An initial analysis of accidental drowning fatalities in the UK in 2006 show that 147 lives were lost in inland waters. Of these deaths, 61 involved the victim unintentionally becoming immersed in the water (for example, falling in), 21 involved people who were swimming, 17 happened after vehicles entered the water, 15 happened during watersports activities and four occurred when the victim was fishing. Twenty-six of the deaths happened when people intentionally entered the water for another reason, such as jumping in to cool off. Three deaths happened during commercial activities.
The 2006 figures*, which were collated by RoSPA using information from members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), show that there were 105 accidental drowning fatalities at coastal locations, 30 out at sea, 22 in residential settings (including garden ponds, baths and home swimming pools), and eight in other swimming pools.
Peter Cornall, RoSPA’s Head of Leisure Safety, said: “As in previous years, inland waters have been shown to be the places that claim the greatest number of lives through accidental drowning.
“People need to understand the hazards they might encounter at these locations. This is an important message to share ahead of a Bank Holiday weekend when we traditionally see a peak in the number of accidental drownings.
“For those who want to take a dip in the water, our advice is that it is best to go to a properly-supervised site, such as a beach, lido or swimming pool. However, not everywhere - particularly inland waters - has a lifeguard, and there are some important things to consider before you swim or jump in at locations like these.
“Remember the water might be colder than you were expecting and there might be hazards such as strong currents and debris that you cannot see beneath the surface. Be honest about your swimming ability and remember that alcohol and swimming do not mix. Children should never swim alone at these locations, and adults taking them there should have the skills to assess the hazards and know what to do if anything goes wrong.”
Members of the NWSF include RoSPA, the RNLI, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Royal Life Saving Society and British Waterways.
*Some drowning fatalities that happened in the UK in 2006 require further analysis. The figures reported in this press release are therefore expected to rise.