Paddling deaths on the rise

15 December 2016

New figures released by Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV) show that the fatality rate among paddlers is increasing.

David Hourigan, Director of Transport Safety Victoria (TSV), said he was concerned by these findings that come at a time when kayaks, canoes, sit on top kayaks, stand up paddleboards and surf skis are increasing in popularity.

"I welcome the Coroners Court report that examined data from 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2016 and found that, of 107 recreational boater deaths, 19 (17.8 per cent) were paddlers.

"The 19 deceased paddlers were all males and not one had a means of raising the alarm.

"Eleven of the paddlers had a lifejacket with them and seven were wearing them - but only five had them correctly fitted.

A market research study commissioned by MSV found that paddlers thought their activity was low risk and this attitude is at odds with the Coroners findings.

MSV is determined to alert paddlers to the importance of wearing a lifejacket and carrying multiple means of raising the alarm.

Paddlers in lifejackets 

"Both the Coroners Court research and our study were done to better understand paddlers' attitudes to safety and how that affects their behaviour," Mr Hourigan said.

Many paddlers don't think of themselves as boaters, are unaware that lifejackets are mandatory and do not realise there are risks associated with their activity whether on open sea or inland waters.

"Our message for all paddlers is –wear a lifejacket, it buys you time to raise the alarm so help arrives as soon as possible.

"It is also important for paddlers to check the weather/tides/river levels, keep a look out, paddle with others, tell someone your plans, know your limits and those of your craft.

"These tips will increase your chances of returning safely," Mr Hourigan added.

Read the Coroners Court report here.

Read the survey findings here.