After a great night out in Groningen you’ve downed the last drink and you’re walking or cycling back home. You regret not heading to the bar’s restroom before leaving and wonder whether relieving yourself in one of the canals may make the journey home less stressful. If the coast is clear it may be even more tempting to do so, but you’ll be risking more than just a fine. Urinating in one of the many canals in the Netherlands canals can be deadly.
In a nutshell there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, if you’ve already had a couple of drinks your movements and thinking may be impaired making it harder for you to safely get out of the water if you fall into a canal.
Secondly, you have to be aware of micturition syncope – a fancy way of referring to fainting while or immediately after urinating.
How does that happen?
According to NOS, alcohol causes blood vessels to expand resulting in a drop in your blood pressure. If you’re urinating while standing, which also reduces blood flow to the brain, you could become dizzy and fall into the water.
A former investigator that used to work with the police told Sikkom that this is why it’s common for men to lean against a wall when urinating when they’re drunk so as to steady themselves when they feel dizzy.
However, when you’re peeing into a canal you don’t have any walls in front of you to lean on and you end up crashing into the water, the investigator said.
He also argued that one tends to exhale while urinating which means the victims hit the water with empty lungs making it easier for them to sink to the bottom. Being drunk, underwater, in shock, and most likely hypothermic in the cold months is a recipe for disaster.
A researcher who spoke with NOS, said that the first reflex of someone who’s fallen into the water is usually to hold their breath and close their mouth. “But with alcohol that reflex may be missing, so you swallow water more quickly,” they added.
200 people drown every year
Around 200 people drown in the Netherlands every year. Sikkom described a number of cases of people who fell into one of Groningen’s canals, including an incident on the night of Saturday 13th January when fire-fighters managed to pull a victim out of the icy water just in time for paramedics to perform CPR. However, it remains unclear what caused each of those incidents.
It’s often hard for authorities to determine exactly why someone drowned in one of the many canals. However, a doctor that spoke with NOS said half of the incidents of people who fell into the water that emergency services respond to occur between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Often, the only evidence of urination left on a drowning victim is their trousers’ open zipper.
So when it’s your bar’s last call, don’t forget to combine it with a visit to the restroom and don’t pee in the canals – it’s not worth the risk.
In case of an emergency anywhere in the Netherlands dial 112. This number connects you to an emergency centre that can dispatch the police, ambulance, or fire department.