Drownings Spike 10% Due to Selfies at Remote Beaches, Surf Lifesaving Australia Steps Up

Sydney, Australia: Data reveals a concerning trend as the number of drownings increased by 10 per cent this summer compared to the previous season. The rise in drownings, totaling 99 deaths across various waterways, has raised alarms among water safety experts. Many of these tragic incidents occurred in unpatrolled, remote areas, highlighting the importance of beach safety education in reducing the number of fatalities.

The Summer Coastal Drowning Report, released by Surf Life Saving Australia, shed light on the circumstances surrounding these drownings, with over half of the deaths occurring on the coast, particularly outside patrolled zones. A significant number of drownings also took place in secluded inland waterways, making it challenging for quick rescue efforts. Additionally, a quarter of the fatalities happened during the week bridging Christmas and New Year’s Day.

According to findings from Royal Life Saving Australia, New South Wales recorded the highest number of drowning deaths at 30, followed by Victoria at 27, and Queensland at 22 — a significant spike from the previous summer. Stacey Pidgeon, National Research Manager at Royal Life Saving Australia, attributes this increase to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, which affected individuals’ access to swimming pools and lessons, leading to a decline in swimming skills.

Despite a 26 per cent decrease in Australia’s drowning rate over the past two decades, efforts to reduce coastal drownings remain a challenge. Authorities stress the importance of practical solutions, including increasing beach safety awareness, enhancing signage, and providing education on rip identification and water safety measures. Surf Life Saving Australia and Royal Life Saving Australia, funded by the federal government, aim to halve the number of drowning deaths by 2030 as part of the Australian Water Safety Strategy.

Increased drownings at isolated locations, lack of rip awareness, and inadequate signage have been identified as key factors contributing to these tragedies. Chris Jacobsen, Chair of Lifesaving at Surf Life Saving Australia, emphasizes the need for improved beach signage and awareness of rip currents, which account for three out of every four fatalities at coastal locations. Collaborative efforts between various agencies, such as lifeguards, surf lifesavers, and emergency services, are crucial in preventing future drownings.

As the summer season draws to a close, authorities are urging beachgoers to remain vigilant, check weather conditions before entering the water, and always swim between the designated safety flags. The overarching goal is to enhance public awareness, provide timely assistance through technology-driven solutions, and ultimately prevent avoidable drownings. Amidst the challenges, the message remains clear — beach safety is a shared responsibility, and every preventive action matters in saving lives.