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Respect the Water

Did you know that 80% of people that drown in the UK are male?

150 people drown around the UK coast each year. That's more than those killed in cycling accidents.

And the problem isn't just dangerous sports or being out in stormy seas; the majority of deaths happen when people are near the shore, doing seemingly harmless activities like swimming or walking.

In 2012, our lifeboat crews launched 8,346 times, rescuing 7,964 people. But despite their dedication, they can't possibly be everywhere all the time. Which is why we're urging you to Respect the Water – taking just a bit more care could save hundreds of lives every year.

We want everyone to enjoy the coast and the sea, and to give the water the respect it deserves.

Here are some facts and advice to help you stay safe in and around coastal areas.


 These are the most common causes of drowning

Rip currents Slips, trips and falls Cold water shock Alcohol Fatigue
Rip currents can travel at 4.5mph – that's almost the same speed as an Olympic swimmer. Even if you're a strong swimmer, they can easily overwhelm you.​ ​You need to be careful when near water or around water. Slips, trips and falls lead to around 28 coastal deaths each year. Cold water shock can start in water of 15˚C. The average temperature of the sea around Britain is just 12˚C.​ Drinking can really inhibit your judgement and strength. Alcohol contributes to around one fifth of coastal deaths.​ Swimming in the sea is very different from swimming in a pool. Even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly – but the water never tires.​

Click for more info on rip currents

Click for more info on slips, trips and falls

Click for more info on cold water shock

Click for more info on alcohol

Click for more info on fatigue


So what can I do?

  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags. To find your nearest, download our Beach Finder app.

  •  Never swim in the sea alone.

  • Don't overestimate your ability. Even the most competent swimmers can tire quickly in the sea.

  • Don't swim too far out of your depth.

  • If you get caught in a rip current, don't panic. Don't try to swim against it, or you'll get exhausted. Raise your hand and shout for help. If you can stand, wade – don't swim. If you can, swim or wade parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.

  • Remember that, despite warm air temperatures, the water is still cold. Acclimatise gradually in shallow water.

  • When at the coast, stay away from the edges of cliffs, stick to marked pathways and read safety signage.

  • Alcohol and water don't mix – don't drink and drown.

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea