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Warning not to drink alcohol near the River Thames as Royal Life Saving Society launches campaign to save lives

The combination of alcohol, drugs and activity on or by the tidal Thames is a recipe for Christmas and New Year misery.

That’s the message from the Port of London Authority (PLA), the organisation responsible for navigational safety on the river between Teddington and the coast including Gravesend and Dartford.

The River Thames is a beautiful place to walk but take care
The River Thames is a beautiful place to walk but take care

It coincides with the launch of the Royal Life Saving Society’s (RLSS) annual Don't Drink and Drown campaign.

RLSS research shows that over the past five years there have been more than 1,400 accidental drownings across the UK. More than 30% of victims were found to have alcohol or drugs in their bloodstream. Young men are one of the highest-risk groups.

Jenny Cooper, the PLA’s sports participation and community outreach manager, said: “Our reminder to everyone over the party season is please stay clear of water courses, if you’re under the influence, and make sure your friends get home safe too.

"Alcohol and drugs affect your decision-making ability, blur your senses, and impede the body’s ability to survive in the water."

Flowing at the speed of an Olympic swimmer, the Thames has a daily tidal rise and fall of seven metres.

The BeAMate video has been produced by the Royal Life Saving Society
The BeAMate video has been produced by the Royal Life Saving Society

The impact of cold water shock also means that even the best swimmers can drown in the river in a matter of minutes at any time of year.

In addition, vessels, currents and hidden underwater objects endanger the lives of anyone who finds themselves in the river.

With Kent still in Tier 3 restrictions, pubs and restaurants can only open for takeaways and people can only meet outdoors in groups of six or less.

But whether you're buying alcohol while out or deciding to bring it from home, drinking alone or with others, the threat of drinking near water remains the same.

Jenny, who also chairs the multi-agency Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum, added: “After two lockdowns this year, many will be keen to enjoy the holiday season.

"The Thames is home to countless pubs and restaurants, and people may be tempted to take short-cuts home by the water’s edge. It’s important to remember, whether fast-flowing or still, cold water kills.”

Members of the public who spot people in difficulty in the river should call 999 and ask for the coastguard, rather than risk their own lives by entering the water.

#Don’tDrinkandDrown was launched in 2014, following a string of tragic drownings of young people. For more information on this year’s campaign, visit www.rlss.org.uk.

You can see a promotional video here

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Read more: All the latest news from Dartford

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