Figures released today reveal that 39 people accidentally lost their lives in 2013 with the total for the last four years being 150 deaths.
The figures show a clear gender divide with adult men accounting for over two-thirds (68%) of the coastal deaths.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is now launching a campaign, Respect the Water, warning people to stay safe.
The charity, which saves lives at sea, says it is often everyday use of the coast and sea which results in fatalities and not necessarily adrenaline sports and rough weather, or water-based activities.
Slips and falls while walking and running are the most common cause of deaths in Scotland, accounting for 21% over the four-year period. Commercial use of the water and diving also account for significant proportions of the coastal fatalities in Scotland, at 14% and 13% respectively.
A large proportion (14%) of the fatalities were people who were recovered from the water but whose reason for being there was unknown. For those who enter the water, intentionally or otherwise, cold water shock is a significant danger.
Even if the air temperature is warm, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – the average UK sea temperature is just 12oc , but cold water shock can set in at any temperature below 15oc. It causes uncontrollable gasping, which draws water into the lungs.
The RNLI is warning people to be aware of the effects of cold water shock and to acclimatise gradually when getting in to the water.
Michael Avril, the RNLI’s Community Incident Reduction Manager in Scotland, says:
‘With more people losing their lives at the coast each year than are killed in cycling accidents, we’re trying to make people, particularly men, realise that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice.
‘Of course we want people to go to the coast and enjoy it – we’re lucky to have an exceptional coastline around Scotland – but we want people to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the sea.
‘Anyone planning a trip to the coast should remember to take care – even if they’re just planning a walk or run along the coastline, they could be at risk if they slip or fall into the water. We’re encouraging people to make the most of the coast but to do so safely by sticking to marked paths, staying away from cliff edges and reading safety signs.
‘Cold water shock is a particular hazard in Scotland for those who enter the water, intentionally or otherwise. The UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – not many people know that. If you’re getting into the water, acclimatise gradually in shallow water.’
UK-wide, an average of 160 people die at the coast each year and the RNLI is aiming to halve this number by 2024.
Notes to Editors
• Provisional coastal fatality data taken from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2010–2013. The figures quoted are for water-related fatalities from accidents and natural causes in UK tidal waters. The figures for the past four calendar years are 167, 163, 164 and 146 deaths.
• RNLI has analysed the WAID data for 2010–2013. GIS software was used to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).
• Department for Transport statistics show that the number of people killed in cycling accidents in Great Britain in 2013 was 109.
• Michael Avril is available for interview. Please contact RNLI Public Relations Manager Richard Smith to arrange interviews.
RNLI media contacts
For more information, contact Richard Smith, RNLI Public Relations Manager Scotland, on 07786 668903 / Richard_Smith@rnli.org.uk
Or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.