Around 320 people drown in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life changing, through near-drowning experiences. Evidence shows that 44% of drowning fatalities happen to people who had no intention of entering the water. This is a stark reminder that it isn’t just traditional water users who get into danger.

Drowning in the UK accounts for more accidental fatalities annually, than fire deaths in the home or cycling deaths on the road.

Accidental drownings reflect normal, everyday activities, and happen throughout every stage of life. For example, young children are most vulnerable when they first begin to move in, around and close to the home and stray further from parental supervision, teenagers through risk taking and thrill-seeking behaviours, and middle aged adults due to increased participation as a result of more leisure time and available income.

The elderly are more commonly affected by underlying health conditions which can lead to drowning incidents. In every age group, men are the most at risk group, accounting for eight in ten of all the deaths. Fatalities rise markedly from mid to late teens and throughout the 20’s; there is a distinct peak in the number of men drowning in the 20-29 year old age group. Among women those aged 50-59 are the most frequent casualties. 45% of children aged 7-11 (Key Stage 2) cannot swim 25 metres unaided.

Many of those who drown just happen to be near water – such as runners, walkers and fisherman.

  • 321 people accidently drowned in 2015
  • 49% of people that accidently drowned in 2015 were taking part in everyday activities near water – they had no intention of entering the water
  • In 2015, 25% of people who accidently drowned were running or walking near water – making runners and walkers the highest group at risk of drowning in the UK
  • 71 people aged 15 to 29 drowned in 2015 with 35% (25) of these drowning victims having alcohol in their system

Five steps to float:

  1. Fight your instinct to thrash around
  2. Lean back, extend your arms and legs
  3. If you need to, gently move them around to help you float
  4. Float until you can control your breathing
  5. Only then, call for help or swim to safety

Swimming in Open Water

Its important to know that open water sites change constantly, and there is a risk of cold water shock. Before you go into any open water, make sure you check flags/signs and notices for safety messages. If you are abroad, be sure to check the national water safety sign as they may be different to UK safety signs. The national water safety signs can be seen by clicking the below:

There are a number of recognised open water sites that enable you to swim safely under controlled conditions. Your nearest sites can be found by clicking here.

Alcohol and Water Activities

Never drink alcohol during or just before swimming – or any other water-related activity such as boating and water skiing. When walking home from a night out, avoid routes that are alongside water, particularly in the darkness, and always stay with and look out for your friends. A quarter of all adult drowning victims have had alcohol in their bloodstreams with younger adults and children more likely to have consumed alcohol before drowning.

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