Every year people in Britain lose their lives due to drowning after or during a night out.

Between 2012 and 2016, the UK saw 366 accidental drownings in which drugs or alcohol were a factor. That’s an average of 73 per year.

County Durham has seen 13 drownings since 2013, with one taking place this year. Alcohol has been linked to the majority of these deaths.

University towns with rivers such as Durham and York can be prone to such tragedies, mainly due to students’ enthusiasm for drinking on nights out.

With all this in mind, a straightforward message is being put out to revellers as Christmas comes near – don’t drink and drown.

Clubbers and partygoers are being warned not to enter water under any circumstances or even walk close to rivers after a few drinks. People are also advised not to walk home alone after a night out.

The Don’t Drink and Drown campaign is being delivered nationally by The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), a charity which focuses on preventing deaths by drowning.

The campaign, which began yesterday (3rd December) and will run until Sunday 9th December, urges partygoers to stick to the following guidelines:

  • Avoid walking home near water, because you might fall in
  • Keep an eye on friends and make sure they get home safely
  • Don’t enter water, especially after consuming alcohol
  • Remember that alcohol severely limits your chances of getting yourself out of trouble

The Don’t Drink and Drown message will be spread throughout County Durham this week, mainly via social media.

In County Durham, RLSS UK will be working with the Safe Durham Partnership to get the message across.

The Safe Durham Partnership includes Durham County Council, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Durham Constabulary, Durham University and Durham Students’ Union.

The Don’t Drink and Drown campaign is also being supported by Durham Sixth Form Centre, Durham City Pubwatch and New College Durham.

Durham County Council’s occupational health and safety manager and chairman of the open water safety group, Kevin Lough, said, “Rivers are extremely unforgiving places, especially after 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.”

The community risk manager for the Fire and Rescue Service, Bob Cherry, said, “We want everyone to enjoy the festivities at Christmastime, 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.”

The chairman of Durham City Pubwatch, James Slee, said, “During the festive period, we urge people to know their limits when consuming alcohol.”

“Buddy up with your friends. 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.”

Dave Orford, assistant chief constable of Durham Constabulary, said, “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.”

The chief executive of RLSS UK, Di Steer, said, “People die tragically every year because they’ve entered water with alcohol in their bloodstream. Drinking in or near water can be a dangerous and deadly cocktail. Alcohol can seriously impede your ability to survive in water.”

“We want everyone to have a great time this Christmas and our Don’t Drink and Drown campaign gives essential advice to partygoers to make sure they know how to stay safe.”

For more information about the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, please go to https://www.rlss.org.uk/.

(The featured image shows Cheryl Stirk from the Fire and Rescue Service’s community safety team with Kevin Lough and James Slee.)

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