New research commissioned by the RNLI has revealed that 55 per cent of people in the north of England would follow a potentially life-threatening instinct if they fell unexpectedly into water.
The RNLI is now calling on the public to fight their instincts and remember one simple skill – floating – that could save lives.
Meanwhile, coastal fatality figures released today by the RNLI show nine people lost their lives at the North East coast in 2016, one fewer than in 2015. Across the north of England, 27 people died, with nearly half (48 per cent) of those being people who didn’t even intend to enter the water.
Sudden immersion in cold water puts these people at severe risk of suffering cold water shock, triggering the instinctive but life-threatening reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.
As the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, enters its fourth year, the charity is calling on the public to fight their instincts and remember one core survival skill – floating – until the effects of cold water shock pass and you can catch your breath, before then trying to swim to safety or call for help.
Darren Lewis, RNLI lifesaving delivery manager in the north, said: “The simple advice we are sharing with our Respect the Water campaign could be the difference between life and death.”
He added: “People will be flocking to the coast this weekend if the weather forecast is to be believed and we want people to have a safe and enjoyable time at the seaside. “For anyone planning to go into the water, the best way to stay safe is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards.
“If you see someone else in danger in the water, fight your instinct to go in and try to rescue them yourself – instead call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”