Aussie men are being urged to stop showing off near the water as alarming statistics reveal they are drowning at almost five times the rate of women.
New data from Royal Life Saving Society, released on Wednesday, reveals 80 per cent of the 2855 Australians who drowned in the past decade were men.
Of those deaths, 32 per cent involved alcohol and more than one in three occurred in inland waterways, such as rivers, lakes, creeks and dams.
Paul Marshall, who has worked as a volunteer with Albury and Border Rescue Squad near the NSW and Victoria boarder for 18 years, confirmed to Yahoo News Australia on Thursday alcohol played a big part in drownings and water accidents.
“Historically, we have many instances of young men with their bravado jumping off bridges – I can think of two in the last five or six years that have tragically lost their lives,” he said.
Mr Marshall, 41, told Yahoo News Australia his rescue crew had been involved in the search for at least one drowning victim in the Murray River every year.
Drowning deaths in Australia 2018-19
Data shows 276 people drowned across the country from July 2018 to July 2019 – with the majority of deaths occurring in Victoria, NSW and Queensland.
During that time, 19 drowning deaths were known to have involved alcohol, 10 of which had evidence in their blood stream.
The highest blood alcohol concentration recorded was 0.30 per cent. The majority of the group had a recorded BAC of 0.05 per cent.
At the time the Royal Live Saving Society report was released, alcohol influence was still unknown in 80 per cent of all cases.
In the same time frame, 29 drownings were known to have involved drugs - with 17 per cent of the group having MDMA, cannabis and ice in their system.
Royal Life Saving Society Australia chief executive Justin Scarr said males drowning under the influence of alcohol aren't just having a drink or two, they're “significantly inebriated".
"They're about three or four times the legal blood-alcohol limit," he said.
"We find that men, particularly when under the influence of alcohol, are more likely to take unnecessary risks, overestimate their abilities, show off for friends and family and underestimate the dangers our waterways present."
Alcohol increases the risk of drowning by impairing judgement, reducing coordination and delaying reaction time, Mr Scarr added, with some drownings a result of accidental falls.
Rivers ‘beautiful but unforgiving’
As of December 17 this year, four people have drowned across the country. Last year, 20 people had died from drowning during the same time frame.
Mr Marshall, 41, told Yahoo News Australia his rescue crew has been involved in the search for at least one drowning victim every year since its existence.
The Murray River, although beautiful, is also unforgiving, he said, giving its title of claiming more lives than any other inland body of water.
The river is constantly changing and a swimming area that may have been safe last year, may not be this year, Mr Marshall said.
From frivolity to life in a wheelchair
In one case, a young man swung out on a rope swing, which he’d done before, but on this occasion he hit a bank and is now wheelchair-bound.
Mr Marshall said the rescuers almost lost their boat in the process of rescuing him.
Another man jumped off a bridge and landed on a stolen motorbike that had been dumped in the water, severely injuring himself.
One of the most challenging parts of the job for rescue crews is when they are forced to pack up after searching for a person all day because they’re losing light.
“Seeing the family members and the mixed emotions on their faces of the thankfulness and gratitude for what you’ve done, but also that anguish and despair that we are packing up and going home and that’s the realisation the person is not going to be found alive that night,” Mr Marshall said.
“That moment sticks with you the most - every time.”
Mr Marshall and the Royal Life Saving Society has urged everyone to be careful in the waters this summer and keep an eye out for their friends.
Other risks include not wearing lifejackets and swimming alone.
Royal Life Saving's new advertising campaign "Make the Right Call" urges men to step up and encourage their mates to make safe choices around water.
"We've all got mates that are prone to showing off, who drink a little too much around water, so we're really trying to target men to look after their mates," Mr Scarr said.
The campaign will run all summer across radio, TV and social media.
Royal Life Saving recommends avoid drinking alcohol around water bodies, wearing a lifejacket when boating or using watercraft and avoid swimming or being on the water alone to stay safe.
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