The official 2018 calendar year drowning toll is down significantly on 2017, but the number of preventable fatalities involving people over the age of 45 is on the rise and Water Safety New Zealand says it’s a growing trend.
WSNZ has released it’s Drowning Prevention Report for 2018 in a new online interactive format which you can view on desktop and mobile and can be found by going to drowningreport.watersafety.org.nz.
A spoke in drowning related hospitalisations is a concern as stretched frontline services such as Coastguard and Surf Life Saving New Zealand continue to rescue people in record numbers over the summer months.
While the final number of preventable drowning fatalities for 2018 is 66 down from 91 in 2017, the toll for those aged over 65 is the highest since 1990 and in 31 per cent of those incidents drugs/alcohol was involved.
Sixty seven per cent of all preventable drowning fatalities were people aged over 35.
“In 2018 adults in this country continue to overestimate their abilities and under estimate the risks when it comes to water,” says WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills.
“The high rate of incidents involving drugs and alcohol is a concern. Alcohol, drugs and water based activities do not mix and can be a fatal combination,” says Jonty.
Recent research by WSNZ revealed older generations do not consider themselves as at risk as younger people while drowning data suggests otherwise.
Three years of surveying people around risk perception revealed the 65+ age group perceive those aged 15 to 24 to be at the greatest risk, while only one per cent of the respondents thought it was their own age group.
The reality is the 65+ age group also had the highest number of preventable drowning fatalities over the last three years.
Preventable drowning deaths continue to be a largely male problem with men making up 72 per cent of all preventable fatalities. However, the male drowning toll for 2018 is the lowest on record while the female toll is up 20 per cent on the five year average.
The rise in drowning related hospitalisations especially for young people is a concern.
“There were 40 hospitalisation incidents involving under-fives. This goes to show the heart of our active adult supervision at all times meesage when it comes to our little ones around water. You cannot take your eyes off them,” says Jonty.
A big positive is the major drop in powered boating drowning deaths – an 83 per cent decrease on 2017. 2018’s total of six boating fatalities is significant when compared with the 19 in 2017 and the historical average of around 18 each year.
Jonty says credit must be given to Maritime NZ, Coastguard NZ and the work of the organisations involved in the Safer Boating forum.
“A decade of work encouraging boaties to wear their lifejackets appears to be paying off. It remains the most important thing a boatie can do to stay safe. In 60 per cent of all boating deaths in 2018 a lifejacket wasn’t worn.”
However Jonty warns with six boating related fatalities already this year, there is no room for complacency.