Teenagers urged to find safe ways to cool down this summer

  |  Published: Jun 19th 2017
summer canal scene, courtesy CRT
  • As the temperature rises people ignore safety in favour of a cooling dip
  • Canal charity urges young people to find other ways to cool down this summer


The Canal & River Trust is urging young people to stay out of the water this summer and to find alternative ways to cool down.

Summer is one of the most popular times for people to visit Britain’s canals and rivers, and last year there were more than 385 million visits made by boaters, cyclists, runners, walkers and canoeists.  Unfortunately, when the weather warms, young people are risking their lives by jumping into canals and rivers to cool down.  Of the 400 people who drown in the UK every year (1), more than half the fatalities happen at inland waters such as canals, rivers, lakes, quarries and reservoirs (2).

The charity is asking people to find other ways to cool down this summer and to avoid getting in the water.  Risks include:

  • Canal and river water is usually murky so you can’t see the depth – it could be much shallower than you expect it to be and cause serious harm if someone jumps in, as well as being much deeper than expected in other areas;
  • In busy areas, rubbish, like shopping trolleys, can trap your feet as well as cause injury;
  • Reeds and other plant life can get tangled around limbs and keep you in the water;
  • There are waterborne diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) which, if left untreated, can be fatal;
  • Low temperatures can cause the blood to rush away from your muscles to protect your organs and limbs and muscles may become fatigued quickly - this can lead to drowning.

Tony Stammers, who heads up the Canal & River Trust’s safety team explains: “Spending time along a canal or river is a lovely way to spend a summer’s day and they are excellent places for families to explore during the holidays. But it’s also important that people, especially children and teenagers, are aware of the dangers of cooling off by going for a dip. The consequences can be devastating.”

Mel Goodship’s 17-year-old son James drowned in June 2014 while swimming with friends in Foulridge Reservoir, Lancashire.  Mel says: “James used to mess around in the water with his friends; he was a strong swimmer so we just thought he’d be fine.  We had never sat our children down and explained the dangers of the water, I didn’t really know what they were myself.  The shock of the cold water paralyzed his muscles, took his energy and took his life.  If you’re thinking about getting into any stretch of water which isn’t supervised, please don’t.”

Tony Stammers continues: “Inland waterways, like canals, rivers and docks, can look really inviting but you can’t tell what is below the surface.  The water is often murky and you won’t be able to see the depth or any obstacles in the water.  We’re asking people to find another way to cool off this summer – have an ice cream, stay in the shade, go for a swim at your local pool.  Please don’t get in the water, it’s just not worth it.”

The Canal & River Trust ‘Explorers’ water safety programme, which focuses on children in Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum, aims to help young people learn about and enjoy their local canal or river safely and can also be used towards a number of Cub Scout and Brownie badges.  Dozens of volunteers nationwide help the Trust each year by going into schools and speaking to youth groups about their local canal or river. If you’d like to see the free resources available or if you’re interested in helping the Trust educate young people about their local canal or river, visit www.canalriverexplorers.org.uk

To find out more about staying safe near our waterways, go to: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/about-us/our-campaigns/safety-on-our-waterways/summer-safety

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