Don’t Drink and Drown – that’s the simple message being issued to revellers this festive season.
Every year people lose their life by drowning after or during a night out.
Statistics show that there were 366 accidental drownings linked to alcohol or drugs in the UK from 2012 to 2016, an average of 73 a year.
In County Durham there have been 13 drownings in the five years since 2013-14, with one so far in 2018-19. Alcohol has been a factor in the majority of these.
As Christmas approaches, a campaign is warning festive party-goers to steer clear of walking near to or entering water while under the influence of alcohol.
Don’t Drink and Down is delivered nationally by The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity.
The campaign urges people to act responsibly near water, especially if they have been drinking – and to remind everyone of the importance of not walking home alone after a night out.
Don’t Drink and Drown, which runs from today to Sunday 9 December, issues simple advice to revellers on staying safe this Christmas:
• Don’t walk home near water, you might fall in.
• Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely.
• Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking.
• Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble.
The campaign is being rolled out in County Durham by the charity working with the Safe Durham Partnership (SDP) – which includes Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Durham University and Durham Students’ Union.
It is also being supported by New College Durham, Durham Sixth Form Centre and Durham City Pubwatch.
Don’t Drink and Drown messages will be spread around the county throughout the week, via social media.
Kevin Lough, the council’s occupational health and safety manager and chairman of the county’s open water safety group, said: “Rivers are extremely unforgiving places especially once you’ve had a few drinks.
“Our advice is simple. Please don’t be tempted to go into the water at Christmas or any other time of year. Avoid walking home near rivers if at all possible and encourage your mates to do the same thing.”
Fire and rescue service community risk management group manager Rob Cherrie said: “We want everyone to enjoy the festivities at Christmas time but it’s important to do it safely.
“Make sure you and your friends know your surroundings when out celebrating and plan your route home. Never enter open water and avoid walking near open water if you have been drinking alcohol.”
James Slee, chairman of Durham City Pubwatch and manager of Osbournes, said: “During the festive period we urge people to know their limits when consuming alcohol.
Buddy up with your friends and look out for each other. If you are concerned about someone report it.
“We want everyone to come to Durham and enjoy our city and be safe, so plan your journey home and stay away from the rivers to ensure a good night does not end in tragedy.”
Dave Orford, assistant chief constable of Durham Constabulary, said: “Christmas is traditionally a time when we see people having nights out with family, friends and colleagues, but our message would be to enjoy yourself, but do so sensibly.
“Sadly, our officers see at first-hand the heartbreak which accidental drowning brings to families – please don’t make your loved ones have to live without you.”
Di Steer, chief executive of RLSS UK, said: “People tragically die each year because they’ve entered the water with alcohol in their bloodstream, either deliberately or completely by accident.
“Drinking near or in water can be a dangerous and deadly cocktail. Alcohol can seriously impede your ability to survive in water.
“When walking home from a night out, avoid routes that are alongside water, particularly in the darkness, and always stay with and look out for your friends.
“We want everyone to have a great time this Christmas and our Don’t Drink and Drown campaign gives essential advice to party-goers to make sure they know how to stay safe when they’re out celebrating.”