A new RNLI campaign is urging people who get into difficulty in water to float instead of the natural reaction to thrash.
New research commissioned by the charity has revealed that over half of the UK population would follow the potentially life-threatening instinct if they fell unexpectedly into water.
In 2016 27 people died off the north of England's coasts and 30 people lost their lives around the coast of Scotland.
Sudden immersion in cold water puts these people at severe risk of suffering cold water shock, which triggers the instinctive but life-threatening reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.
Overall, just under a quarter (23%) of respondents alluded to a recommended first course of action, with just 6% knowing specifically to float (3%) or tread water (3%). Others said they would stay calm (11%); look for something to hold on to (3%); lie on their back; relax (1%) (1%), or catch their breath (1%).
The campaign will run throughout the summer.
"We’re asking the public to remember this lifesaving advice, share with others and practice the survival skill of floating – it could be the difference between life and death. If people in danger in the water can help themselves initially by floating and regaining control of their breathing, they stand a much greater chance of surviving."