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The charity making life better by water

Stay safe by the water this winter

We're urging people to take extra care when walking alongside the water’s edge this winter. As the temperature drops and snow falls, the waterways can become icy. It’s important to be alert to the dangers these conditions can present.

With over 100 family friendly waterway destinations to explore, walkers, cyclists, joggers and boaters are being encouraged to stay safe when enjoying a festive visit this Christmas.

At this time of year the waterways are a magical place to visit with frost covered trees and picture postcard scenery. But towpaths, bridges and lock-sides can become slippery and snow can conceal boat mooring rings and ropes which, unless people are paying attention, can be easy to trip over. And while frozen canals look beautiful no-one should ever attempt to walk on or test the thickness of the ice.

Frosty escape

Tony Stammers, head of safety at the Canal & River Trust, explains: “Canals and rivers remain popular throughout winter when they provide a frosty escape for walkers, cyclists, anglers and joggers. However the beauty of the waterways in winter, make it easy to forget how dangerous icy towpaths and freezing water can be. Overall, deaths are decreasing on our waterways, but every fatality is one too many.

“We are urging people to continue enjoying their local canal or river at this time of year, but always stay away from the edge of the water, always be alert to potential dangers and always wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the cold and icy weather.”

Higher risk

Each year around 400 people drown in the UK, according to the Royal Life Saving Society UK, the drowning prevention charity, with children and young adults and people under the influence of alcohol among the highest risk groups. But the winter weather currently being experienced brings a higher risk of slips, trips and falls on the towpath or into the water, which everyone can fall victim to.

Families should make sure that young children are kept within sight and are also made aware of the importance of staying away from the edge. Dog walkers are advised to keep dogs on leads during a freeze and never follow their animal into the water.

Another danger is walking along the edge of the water if you have been drinking and are under the influence. Statistics reveal that young people, especially men, are most likely to have an accident after a night on the tiles. It's important to be extra vigilant and always pre-plan your route home, travel with friends and do not walk home alone.

Last Edited: 23 December 2014

photo of a location on the canals
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