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New report: Lifejackets save lives

Transport for NSW today released a major NSW boating incident report, revealing 85 per cent of the 105 recreational boaters presumed drowned since 2007 weren’t wearing a lifejacket.

At the same time, lifejacket safety campaigns have seen lifejacket wear rates surge from nine to 45 per cent and the recreational boating fatal incident rate continues to trend downward. These are among the key findings from new report “Boating Incidents in NSW; Statistical Report for the ten year period ended 30 June 2016.”

With February the peak month for fatalities over the past decade (18.3 per cent) - the report is a timely reminder for recreational boaties to keep heeding the key messages of wearing lifejackets, keeping an eye on weather and water conditions, always driving at a safe speed, avoiding alcohol whilst boating and maintaining a proper lookout at all times.

“Around two million people take to the water across NSW every year, and with over 50,000 jet ski licences, 230,000 registered recreational vessels and 450,000 general boat licences across NSW, following the waterway rules and advice is essential for keeping everyone safe,” Neil Patchett, from Transport’s Centre for Maritime Safety, said.

New lifejacket legislation was introduced in 2011 after extensive community consultation and feedback. Lifejackets must now be worn on smaller vessels at night, offshore, on alpine waters and when alone, and by children under 12. 

Following these changes, the Centre for Maritime Safety introduced the Old4New lifejacket exchange program to encourage boaters to upgrade to more comfortable, slimline modern jackets. The popular mobile program is in its fourth year, has travelled more than 90,000km and generated wide interest and engagement with people at 450 site visits across NSW.

On latest figures, there were eleven boating related fatalities in the year to 30 June, 2016. While that is eleven too many, the numbers are down on the ten year average of 17. This figure is also more than 25 per cent lower than the 2014/15 financial year. 

These downward trends continue when comparing serious injuries to the previous year. Serious injuries are nearly 35 per cent lower than the ten year average while total incidents are also down. 

“Most waterway-related deaths were the result of capsizing, falling overboard or towing incidents such as water skiing,” Mr Patchett said.

While recreational boaters are heeding water safety initiatives, the news comes as NSW Ambulance reported attending to 225 drownings or near drownings in the two months from November 1, 2016 to January 2, 2017. This tragic statistic is largely comprised of fatalities occurring in water activities other than boating. 

In the 12 months to June 30, 2016 points of interest include:

  • 2016 – There were 11 boating related fatalities in NSW. With one on a commercial vessel and the remaining on recreational vessels. The ten year average is 17 fatalities per year.
  • Of the 10 recreational boating deaths, there were seven drownings – only two were reported to be wearing lifejackets. 
  • There were 56 reported serious boating related injuries in NSW. The ten year average is 68 serious injuries per year.
  • There were 257 reported incidents across NSW. The ten year average is 344 reported incidents per year.

Over the 10 year period to June 30 2016, points of interest include:

  • Nearly 70 per cent of recreational boating incidents occurred in the warmer months between October and March.
  • More than 65 per cent of incidents occurred between 10am and 6pm.
  • Nearly fifty per cent of fatal incidents on recreational boats were reported on vessels less than 4.8 metres in length and more than 55% involved the victim being forced into the water, such as by falling overboard or the vessel capsizing or sinking.
  • Nearly half of recreational boating fatal incidents occurred on a Saturday or Sunday, although in the 2015/16 year, a third of fatal incidents occurred on Wednesday. 
  • Data on victims’ ages and the age-distribution of licence numbers suggests that boaters aged 70 and above are at particularly high risk of a boating fatality.
  • Collisions with another vessel or object accounted for nearly 48% of reported recreational boating incidents.

View the report 
 

Last updated: 10 March 2017