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Effectiveness of the 2005 compulsory personal flotation device (PFD) wearing regulations in reducing drowning deaths among recreational boaters in Victoria, Australia
  1. Lyndal Bugeja1,2,
  2. Erin Cassell2,
  3. Lisa R Brodie1,
  4. Simon J Walter3
  1. 1Coroners Prevention Unit, Coroners Court of Victoria, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Monash Injury Research Institute, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Erin Cassell, Monash Injury Research Institute, Building 70, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Victoria 3800, Australia; erin.cassell{at}


Objective To investigate whether the Victorian mandatory personal flotation device wearing regulations that came into effect on 1 December 2005 reduced drowning deaths among recreational boaters in Victoria, Australia.

Design A retrospective population-based ‘before and after’ study using Victorian coronial data on drowning deaths of occupants of recreational vessels operating in Victorian waters.

Methods The annual numbers of deaths in the 5 years after the transition year of the regulations (2005) was compared with the annual numbers of deaths in the 6 years prior to the transition year, using the Mann-Whitney U test.

Results There were 59 recreational boating drowning deaths in the 6-year preintervention period (1 December 1998 to 30 November 2004) compared with 16 in the 5-year postintervention period (1 December 2005 to 30 November 2010). The analysis showed a significant decrease in drowning deaths among all recreational boaters (U=30.0, p=0.01) and among these strata: vessel occupants aged 0–29 years (U=28.0, p=0.02) and 30–59 years (U=27.5, p=0.02), vessel occupants engaged in pleasure cruising (U=29.0, p=0.01) and in ‘other’ boating activities (U=25.0, p=0.04), boaters on small powerboats ≤4.8 m in length (U=29.5; p=0.01), boaters on motorised (U=29.5; p=0.01) and sail-powered vessels (U=26.0; p=0.04), and occupants of vessels operating in inland waterways (U=30.0; p=0.01).

Conclusions These findings provide further support for the adoption of a regulatory approach to personal flotation device wearing to reduce drowning among recreational boaters.

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