Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV), a branch of Transport Safety Victoria, launched its summer safety boating program with a direct appeal to boaters to make lifejacket wearing a normal part of every boat trip.

MSV’s statistics show that, 10 years after compulsory lifejackets were introduced in 2005, the initial decline in fatalities is reversing and lifejacket wear rates are dropping.

Peter Corcoran, Director Maritime Safety, said the six boating fatalities since 1 July – equal to the annual average – represented a disturbing trend and was not a good starting point for the peak boating season.

“We know lifejackets are the biggest single factor in surviving a boating accident and in making a rescue more likely to succeed.

“We want boaters and paddlers to understand the importance of wearing their lifejackets or wearing the consequences,” Mr Corcoran said.

“This summer, MSV will have:

  • regular patrols on the water in boats and jet skis educating boaters about safety
  • joint enforcement and compliance operations with Victoria Police
  • additional boating safety officers deployed around the state
  • lifejacket reminder signs at popular boat ramps and on highway billboards
  • digital, electronic and print advertising with our campaign message of – wear a lifejacket or wear the consequences.”

MSV has released its Boating Safety Action Plan that identifies and addresses the six major safety issues limiting its ability to keep the fatality rate falling.

The issues in order of priority are lifejacket wear, paddle craft, fit for purpose boats, collisions, cold water immersion and the problems specific to coastal and off shore waterways.

“The fall in lifejacket wear rates and subsequent increase in boating related fatalities are the reason for our program’s focus this summer.

“We want every boater or paddler on the water to come home safely so I am calling on boaters to wear a lifejacket even when the law does not require it – it is better to be safe than sorry – or a statistic,” Mr Corcoran said.

The statistics speak for themselves:

  • in 70 per cent of boating fatalities the deceased was not wearing a lifejacket
  • of the 1,286 recreational boating incidents in 2014-15, 3.3 per cent resulted in death, serious injury or loss of the vessel – the three worst outcomes
  • 2.9 fewer people have died boating in the past 10 years compared with the 10 years before the laws were introduced
  • every year, three fewer people have drowned while boating thanks to lifejackets
  • in the 10 years prior to 2005, the average was 9.2 deaths per year
  • in the 10 year since 2005, the average is 6.3 deaths per year.