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Lifejackets shunned on Aussie waterways

AAP logoAAP 12/12/2016

Fewer than 10 per cent of Australians who drowned while mucking around on boats or other watercraft in the past decade were wearing a lifejacket, a study has found.

More than a quarter of the 473 people who drowned between 2005 and 2015 had been drinking alcohol and nearly a third had taken drugs, the Royal Life Saving report released on Tuesday showed.

Just eight per cent were wearing a lifejacket at the time of their death and only 14 per cent of those people had one on board their vessel at the time.

Royal Life Saving Australia's natational manager of aquatic risk Craig Roberts said more consistency was needed across all states and territories in terms of when it is compulsory to wear lifejackets.

Many people were often confused by the different rules, particularly when travelling between states and territories, he said.

"Royal Life Saving encourages everyone to wear one," Mr Roberts told AAP.

"It's evident from this report that wearing a lifejacket increases the chances of survival dramatically."

Men made up the bulk of those who drowned as a result of boating and watercraft activities during the 10-year period.

Nearly a fifth of those who drowned were aged over 65. Fishing and moving about were the most common activities.

Of those who had been drinking alcohol, more than half had a blood alcohol reading above the 0.05mg/L drink driving limit.

Most boating drownings occurred in small boats under five metres in length, including kayaks, canoes and surf skis.

NOT WAVING, DROWNING

* 473 people drowned when using boats and watercraft between July 1, 2005 and 30 June, 2015

* 31% had taken drugs

* 26% had alcohol in their system

* 72% drowned while boating

* 92% of all drownings were male

* 52% of drownings were in oceans and harbours

* 33% of drownings were inland waterways

* 28% of people were fishing immediately before they drowned

* 27% of people were moving while on their vessel just before drowning

* 12% drowned after falling overboard.

(Source: Royal Life Saving Australia)

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