Outdoors 'can save lives'

17th February 2006 at 00:00
Outdoor adventure activities are still viewed as highly risky, although only around three children die each year on school trips in Britain. In contrast, road accidents cause the deaths of 700 young people.

Marcus Bailie, head of inspection with the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, last week claimed outdoor activities could save lives in the long term by persuading young people to adopt healthy, active lifestyles.

Addressing a Learning and Teaching Scotland conference on outdoor connections in Dundee, Mr Bailie said there was "a perceived risk, therefore a belief it is dangerous", but outdoors activities were exceptionally safe.

The licensing authority was set up to regulate the outdoor industry across the UK and increase safety measures after a series of accidents in the early 1990s. But Mr Bailie said the public continued to perceive the incidence of accidents as "unacceptably high".

"There is a belief that adventure activities are part of the problem, not part of the solution, for our young people. The trend in education is towards exams and in society towards cotton wool," he told the conference.

Adventure activities had a bad reputation because of a combination of factors - the perceived risk, some obscure and unusual accidents that were highly publicised, and moral panics fuelled by the media. The reality was different. Of 1,400 sudden or accidental deaths among young people in Britain each year, three take place on school visits and one involves school adventure activities. The majority of deaths were caused by road accidents (700) and undiagnosed heart disease (400).

Figures from the authority indicate that around 3 million UK children take part in adventure activities each year.

Mr Bailie said: "We should encourage young people to participate in active pursuits such as adventure activities which statistically cause them very little harm but which are likely to prolong their lives and radically enhance their expected quality of life."

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