New study shows people 'underestimate' the risks

A study, conducted by User Perspective and commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has indicated that people don’t wear lifejackets because they underestimate the risk
of falling into the water and don’t appreciate the danger of cold water

According to the study, those going afloat did not believe there was a high risk of falling into the water and therefore felt that a lifejacket was unnecessary.

Geoff Matthews, HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Operations Officer, said: ‘Lifejackets are lifesavers. No-one intends to end up in the water, but as we all know, accidents can happen at any time in any weather. Good training and common sense help, but the facts are that several people’s lives could be saved every year if they wore a correctly fitting, well maintained lifejacket. We urge everyone going afloat, working around water or fishing to wear their lifejacket. Lifejackets are useless unless worn.’

The study found that, even if they did fall in, people expected to climb out easily or survive for a long time in the water. They thought lifejackets would not increase their survival time significantly.

Peter Chennell, RNLI Sea Safety Manager, said: ‘People underestimate how difficult it is to get back onto a boat and they overestimate how long they can survive in the water. Water temperatures around the UK are classed as ‘cold’. Wearing a correctly fitted lifejacket with crotch straps and sprayhood could double your chances of survival and significantly increase your chance of being found.’

A general lack of awareness about the effect of cold water shock was also highlighted in the report. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause increased blood pressure, a rise in heart rate and risk of gasping in water. People did not consider cold water shock as a risk and instead saw hypothermia as a greater threat.

The RNLI and MCA encourage all who go afloat in their leisure time to always put their lifejackets on when going to sea. Wearing a lifejacket has been shown to double a person’s chance of survival. A lifejacket will buy you vital time in the water and could save your life, but only if you’re wearing it.

Lifejackets need regular maintenance checks too. They should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area when not in use. To keep your lifejacket in full working order it should be given regular checks throughout the boating season. Lifejackets should have a full service in line with the manufacturers recommendations.