A summer safety warning for young people

19 November 2015

With Leavers celebrations and summer holidays set to begin for WA's young people next week Royal Life Saving Society WA launched its 2015 Don't Drink and Drown campaign today.

The impact of alcohol and drowning amongst young people aged 15-24 remains a significant issue in our state. On average four young people will lose their life to drowning and a further 10 will be hospitalised following a non-fatal drowning each year in WA, many of whom will have devastating, ongoing health issues as the result of brain damage and spinal cord injury. Overall alcohol contributes to 30% of these incidents.

Lauren Nimmo, Senior Manager, Health Promotion & Research at Royal Life Saving says "these numbers are alarming and despite many years of education, the message still isn't getting through. We are concerned that too many young people are still taking unnecessary risks by drinking alcohol while in, on or around the water placing themselves and their friends at a much greater risk of drowning. And it's not just a quiet drink with friends; the majority of young people involved in these incidents recorded a blood alcohol level more than 4 times the legal limit for driving!"

This summer Royal Life Saving Society WA, in partnership with the Department of Health WA, is launching new strategies to engage with young people and raise awareness of the risks associated with mixing alcohol and water activities; using social media and bus stop advertising near popular aquatic locations and waterside venues.

Lauren Nimmo says "We are hopeful that these new strategies, in addition to ongoing school education, mass media campaigns and promotions at youth events will have a real impact on the burden of drowning in this age group, and ensure that young people have the information to make informed and safer decisions when it comes to drinking alcohol, especially when they are near the water."

The aim of the Don't Drink and Drown campaign is to make young people aware that drinking alcohol in, on or around the water significantly increases the risk of drowning for not only themselves, but their friends too. 

Lauren Nimmo says "we are urging young people to look after each other while celebrating this summer - you wouldn't let your friend drive home while drunk so why would you let them go in the water?"

Kymberley Doig has been volunteering as a youth ambassador for the Don't Drink and Drown program for the past five years. Kymberley says "As a young person myself, I have experienced and understand many of the same issues around alcohol and aquatic activities that other young people - in particular school leavers - are exposed to. These teenagers are just about to turn 18 and their summer will be filled with going to the beach, pool parties and all sorts of water activities; generally they will always involve alcohol."

"I think that I can make a real difference and want to encourage them to consider the consequences and impact that drinking around the water can have on themselves, their friends and their families, which can be both tragic and devastating."