JCU professors using brethalysers and surveying at Alligator Creek for research aiming to reduce number of river drowning deaths. Heinz Szilagy from Edmonton took part in the survey. Picture: Evan Morgan
JCU professors using brethalysers and surveying at Alligator Creek for research aiming to reduce number of river drowning deaths. Heinz Szilagy from Edmonton took part in the survey. Picture: Evan Morgan

Study sees alcohol, drownings connection

ALLIGATOR Creek was the scene for a pilot study aimed at finding answers to the nation's river drowning problem.

The project was triggered after the 2016-17 RLS national drowning report showed rivers, creeks and streams had the highest number of drowning fatalities.

From last Friday until Sunday, swimmers at Alligator Creek were surveyed by the national manager of Research and Policy at the Royal Lifesaving Society Australia Amy Peden and JCU Associate Professor Richard Franklin.

Ms Peden said she was glad they had chosen Alligator Creek because it had been diverse with many families and tourist groups.

"As a pilot, the project has been really successful," she said. "It's been interesting to learn what people who are using the river every day are doing and how much they drink and their attitude towards that.

"All the knowledge we have at the moment is really in the deaths data, and we obviously can't ask those people why they did what they did and whether they knew they were taking risks."

Prof Franklin said people were asked about their alcohol habits, before breathalysing participants with some low-level positive readings.

"From a research perspective, this is concerning because it means that even a smaller group of people are actually at risk when we see quite a lot of people drowning with alcohol in their system," he said.

"Hopefully, what we are doing is making rivers safer at the end of the day and people are thinking about when they go, what they need to do."


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