MARITIME Safety Victoria (MSV) and Parks Victoria are urging boaters and paddlers to wear a lifejacket to prevent accidents when unexpectedly entering the water.
The groups – who both encourage safe use of their waterways – said the risk is particularly high in Victoria as the water temperature drops in the cooler months.
Cameron Toy, MSV acting director, said wearing a lifejacket is key to surviving a boating or paddling trip should it take an unfortunate turn.
“A lifejacket can keep your head above water while your body recovers from the shock of falling into cool water – especially important if you are unconscious,” he said.
“Wearing a lifejacket is the first step in surviving but by no means the last. Your lifejacket buys you time to try to get back onboard and to raise the alarm – two other key steps in getting home safely.”
According to Life Saving Victoria’s Drowning Report for 2017-18, 84 per cent of people that drowned in boating incidents were not wearing a lifejacket, wore an incorrectly fitted lifejacket or one that was incorrect for the conditions.
The report found of the 52 boating related drowning deaths over the past decade (2007/08 to 2016/17), lifejacket usage was known in 43 cases. In 30 of these 43 cases, the deceased was not wearing a lifejacket at the time.
Mr Toy said it’s crucial lifejackets are in good condition to ensure the best chance of survival. He said inflatable jackets with rusty or missing gas cannisters will not inflate in an emergency.
“Only lifejackets in working order can help in a crisis – make sure you inspect yours regularly and maintain inflatable jackets in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions,” he said.
MSV’s “Prepare to survive: Know the five” campaign suggests boaters and paddlers should know the weather, practice getting back on, carry a distress beacon, lock in a buddy plan and wear a lifejacket.