Facts & Figures

Alcohol and Water Safety

Alcohol and water don’t mix

Alcohol and Water SafetyAlcohol contributes to at least 20 per cent of all adult drowning deaths every year. This rises to 41 per cent in the 15–29 years age group but the overall figure is likely to be higher as alcohol is not tested for in all drowning deaths.

Combining alcohol and aquatic activity is so dangerous because alcohol:

  • Impairs Judgement – Alcohol distorts your perception of risk, and your own abilities
  • Increases Risk Taking Behaviour – Alcohol removes inhibitions, leaving you more likely to take greater risks, even life threatening ones
  • Reduces Coordination – Alcohol numbs the senses, particularly sight, sound and touch leading to unsteadiness and inability to climb or swim making it hard to get out of trouble
  • Impairs Reaction Time – Alcohol is a depressant, reducing the rate the brain processes information. Ordinary reactions take longer at a time when a quick response is vital for survival
  • Reduces the Effectiveness of CPR – Should you need resuscitation, alcohol reduces the likelihood that resuscitation methods will work

People drown while intoxicated and involved in every type of aquatic activity. Alcohol produces a range of physical changes in the body including:

  • Inner Ear – Fluid in the ear is responsible for balance. Alcohol and a sudden change in temperature, such as when entering the water, can lead to disorientation
  • Hypothermia – In cold situations, the body will attempt to draw blood away from the limbs and to the vital organs to prevent heat loss. Alcohol, however, prevents this and therefore increases the chance of hypothermia
  • Spasm of the Vocal Chords – Water in the windpipe triggers a reflex closure of the windpipe. Alcohol increases the chance that a spasm of the vocal chords will occur, snapping the airway shut and locking the airway closed

Click here to download the Alcohol and Water Safety Fact Sheet