Men urged to think twice before mixing alcohol with water activities

14 November 2017

In the 10 years between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2017 260 men aged 15 years and over drowned in WA. Of these 48 cases were known to involve alcohol (18%), 79 cases were known to involve drugs (30%), and 106 cases were known to involve alcohol and/or drugs.

Across Australia men are four times more likely to drown than women and the role of alcohol and drugs is a significant issue, with 37% of men drowning under the influence.
As we work to address these statistics Royal Life Saving Society Australia, with support of the Federal Government, have launched a new drowning prevention campaign in time for summer. The campaign is urging men to look out for their mates and stand up to the sorts of risk taking behaviour that can lead to accidents and drowning.

Royal Life Saving Society Australia, CEO, Justin Scarr says “A culture of risk taking behaviour among men can be dangerous around water, and when combined with alcohol and/or drugs it is often fatal.”

“Don’t Let Your Mates Drink and Drown" is a campaign that calls on men to look out for their mates, avoid alcohol around water, and to keep them out of trouble by speaking up if they are drunk or drug affected and decide to go swimming or take the boat for a spin” said Mr Scarr.

West Australian Matt Naysmith knows the devastating effect that alcohol can have when consumed around water. At the age of 21, Matt was a fully qualified heavy duty mechanic working a FIFO job in the Pilbara. Having booked an around-the-world ticket, Matt and a group of friends spent the day at Karijini National Park to celebrate.Paraplegic Benefit Fund's Matt Naysmith

Matt was drunk when he ignored warning signs and climbed to the top of a waterfall. Tragically, he slipped and was sent hurtling over the edge and into the gorge, landing heavily on rocks, breaking his neck and severing his spinal cord. He was told he would never walk again.

Matt’s life changed in that fateful moment. “My injury took me from ‘living’ a great life to becoming a spectator in an instant; it's like sitting on the sidelines - you know what you want to do and you know how to do it but you just can't,” said Matt.

Matt says he never should have been drinking around water in the first place, being known by friends for making ‘stupid decisions’ under the influence of alcohol. “A series of poor decisions that I made that day took away so many things that I treasured in life, including travel, relationships, lifestyle, and freedom. Don’t make the same mistake,” said Matt.

Royal Life Saving believes that the culture of drinking around water is a big factor in male drowning. Mr Scarr said “For many Australian men an esky full of stubbies is just as important on a fishing trip as the bait, or checking the conditions before swimming. This culture of drinking while swimming, boating or fishing means men are at much greater risk of drowning.”

Men aged 25-34 account for 19% of all male drowning deaths. Men in this age group have the highest proportion of drowning deaths which were known to involve alcohol and/or drugs, with 46% drowning while under the influence. Alcohol and drugs increase the risk of drowning by impairing judgement, reducing coordination, and delaying reaction time.

Royal Life Saving are calling on men across the country to call their mates out when they’re being reckless around water to prevent further drowning tragedies. “Look out for your mates, leave the booze until safely away from the water, and pull them into line if they’re under the influence and thinking about swimming or boating. You can literally save their life” said Mr Scarr.

For more information about alcohol and water safety click the link below.