A QUICK dip in the summer sun.
It’s a great Aussie tradition, whether it’s a body surf at the beach, a rope swing from a tree into an inland river or a lazy float across a backyard swimming pool.
But there’s an all-too-dangerous side to our love affair with water, as shownby the number of people who have lost their lives unnecessarily this Christmas by drowning.
At least seven people have drowned this weekand it will be an unusual festive season if the toll does not increase.
At the time of writing, more people had drowned in NSWwaters than had died on our roads during the holiday season, leading police and Royal Life Saving to issue their familiar summer warnings.
In the words ofNSW Police marine search and rescue co-ordinator, Sergeant Paul Farquharson this week: “If you can’t swim, don’t go in: it’s as simple as that.”
Despite the warnings, Royal Life Saving’s most recent compilation of drowning statistics saysan average of 282 people a year have drowned each year in over the past 10 years. This report, and others before it, reveal a distinct pattern of n drownings as far as age is concerned. The dangerfor children is thehighest before they turn five. Between fiveand 17, drowning rates are low, but they rise rapidly from 18 onwards.The peak drowning ages are 25 to44. The numbers then taper off to the point where the totals for people aged 75 and over are about the same as for children aged four and under.
Dividing the figures by gender shows that males typically account for 80 per cent or more of n drowning deaths. In the past decade, the most likely place to drown has proved to be rivers, creeks or streams, accounting for about 27 per cent of fatalities,followed by beaches (16 per cent), deep oceans or harbours (15 per cent),swimming pools (14 per cent), lakes, dams and lagoons (9 per cent), bathtubs and spas (7 per cent) and falling from rocks (6 per cent).
Despite the dangers, ’s romancewith the water need not be a doomed one. Simple steps can save lives. Pools must be fenced. Children need tolearn to swim, and to swim strongly. Adults, as much as it might annoy them, need toobey the signs, and swim between the flags. And just as is the case on the road, swimming and substance abuse donot mix. If the messages seem obvious, or repetitive, it’s because they are important. As important as life itself.