PEOPLE going home after Christmas parties are being urged not to walk along rivers as part of a campaign to tackle accidental drowning.

The Safe Durham Partnership is issuing advice to people who will be out celebrating Christmas and New Year.

There have been eight accidental drownings in County Durham over the last four years which have involved alcohol or drugs, including three students in Durham city.

Kevin Lough, chair of the open water safety group and occupational health and safety manager at Durham County Council, said: “Christmas and New Year are of course times where people love to go out and enjoy themselves and we hope everyone has a great time.

“And while we don’t want to be killjoys, we would just ask people not to walk home along rivers if they’d had one too many as they’ll be at increased risk of falling in – and will also find it harder to get out.

“The same applies if someone you’re out with has had too much to drink – please make sure they get home safely.

“Finally, this might seem obvious but please do not go into a river in any circumstances, they are extremely dangerous and unforgiving environments.”

While figures show there have been no water related fatalities in County Durham and Darlington in 2017, the Durham City Safety Group and the Open Water Safety Group, are issuing advice to Christmas partygoers, in support of the Royal Life Saving Society national Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.

They are urging people to avoid walking home near water, to look out for friends to make sure they get home safely, not to enter water if you have been drinking and are reminding people that alcohol can affect your ability to get yourself out of trouble.

Andrew Allison, community safety manager at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, added: “At this time of year the conditions around open water tend to get worse, so river banks become slippy and paths can have icy patches.

“This can make it tricky for people under the influence of alcohol, walking their dogs, jogging or doing other activities anywhere near open water. We ask everyone to take extra care around water, particularly when it is dark.”

The fire service has had to rescue eight people from water this year.