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Lowest Drowning Toll in 24 Years

Lowest Drowning Toll in 24 Years

Water Safety New Zealand today released the provisional drowning figure for 2003 stating that 104 people drowned in New Zealand, the lowest toll since 1980 when records began.

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) executive director, Alan Muir said the drowning toll was significantly less than the pervious low of 122 in 2001, especially in the area of non-recreation where the reduction is huge.

"There has been a lot of emphasis on reducing the number of immersion accidents over the past few years. Home pool drownings is just one of the areas that has reduced significantly".

There were 21 accidental immersions, where the victim had no intention of being in the water, and three people drowned while attempting to rescue others.

Mr Muir believes the toll is so low due to the effectiveness of the strategies that WSNZ and it's member organisations have implemented over the last 10 years.

"Experts now deliver education programmes in their chosen field and we work in partnership to maximise results. There is a really good mix of public awareness and quality education programmes to entrench learning and change attitudes and behaviours".

"An example of this is the impact the WSNZ and ACC RiverSafe initiative has had. For the first time in many years the number of river, creek and stream drownings is lower than a third of the total toll".

However, according to Mr Muir much more can be achieved in the area of water based recreation drowning.

"We now have a situation where recreational drownings account for 58% of the toll which is a complete reversal of where we were five years ago. We are not happy that the number of recreational drownings continues to be so high".

The recreation boating toll of 18 in 2003 is disappointing given the amount of publicity for safe boating and skipper responsibility.

"A major BoatSafe advertising campaign by Water Safety New Zealand and ACC has been aired over the past two summer periods. The key messages focus on skipper responsibility and ensuring the skipper is aware that they are legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all the people on board", said Mr Muir.

In addition, the Maritime Safety Authority has been promoting the carriage of life jackets and Coastguard Boating Education have continued to promote and run their excellent range of courses.

"Three separate recreational boating incidents claimed eight lives in 2003. This again highlights the requirement for skipper responsibility and the potential for multiple drownings to occur".

Mr Muir also commented that the 15 people who drowned while swimming is higher than expected and needs addressing.

"Eight of the swimming drownings were at beaches and people need to understand that New Zealands beaches are dangerous. That is why there are surf lifeguards and flags to swim between", said Mr Muir.

The other swimming related drownings were in rivers (2), lakes (2), creek, home pool, public pool and a stream.

Scuba diving and snorkelling incidents were also higher than in previous years with 11 drownings.

January is traditionally the month when the most drownings occur. Improved weather and annual holidays sees an increase in aquatic related recreation so it is critical that people enjoy the water safely, know their abilities and skill level and acknowledge their limitations.

Already there have been 7 drownings during the first week of 2004.

"Think safe in, on and under the water over the summer period and a lot of fun will be had in our brilliant waterways", said Mr Muir.


Provisional drowning statistics from DrownBase(tm), the official database of Water Safety New Zealand

A total of 104 people drowned in New Zealand in the year 2003

* 82 (79%) of all drowning victims were male

* Alcohol was known to have been involved in 11 (11%) of the cases Non-recreational breakdown

* The 44 non-recreational drownings equals 42% of the drowning total

* Immersion accidents accounted for 21 (20%) drownings

* 9 (9%) drownings were as a result of road vehicle accidents Recreational breakdown

* Recreational drownings totalled 60, (58%)

* Boating accounted for 18 (17%) drownings. Twelve (67%) of these were in the 45+ age bracket and all 18 were male

* 15 (14%) people drowned while swimming

* Snorkelling and scuba diving had 11 drownings (11%), three more than in 2002

* 7 (7%) people drowned while angling, net or shell fishing Site breakdown

* 28 people drowned in the open sea (27%)

* A total of 26 (25%) people drowned at beaches (17 at surf beaches, five at calm water beaches, and four at the rocky foreshore)

* 24 people drowned in rivers, creeks and streams. This equates to 23% of all drownings

* Six people drowned in lakes compared with four in 2002

* Four people drowned in home swimming pools. Two were pre-schoolers

* Four people drowned in ponds. Two were pre-schoolers. Ethnicity breakdown

* Caucasians = 55 (53%)

* Maori = 23 (22%)

* Pacific Islanders = 8 (8%)

* Asians = 5 (5%)

* Indian = 2 (2%)

* Unknown = 11 (11%) Age breakdown

* The most at risk age group in 2003 was the 25-30 and 35-40 year old age groups with 10 (10%) drownings each

* This was closely followed by the 40-45 and 60-65 year age groups with 9 (9%) each .

* The 30-35 and 55-60 year age groups had 8 drownings (8%) each

* Pre-schoolers and the 20-25 year olds both had 7 (7%) drownings

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