Facts About Drowning

DrowningSwimming, boating and water sports are fun activities for people of all ages. But with all the fatalities that occur in pools as well as natural bodies of water, it’s important to know about the causes and preventative steps against drowning so that neither you nor any of your loved ones ever become part of today’s unfortunate statistics.

General Figures

Roughly 10 drowning deaths occur per day in the USA, where drowning accounts for 20 percent of fatalities. A fifth of these victims are children under the age of 14, while males account for 80 percent of all drowning fatalities. Over 3,500 accidental drownings occurred in the US during the second half of the noughties, a figure that translates to roughly 10 deaths per day. Nearly 350 additional deaths occur annually due to boating accidents.

Child Statistics

Drowning accounts for 30 percent of all deaths of children between the ages of 1 and 4. The majority of these deaths occur in residential swimming pools. Behind birth defects, drowning ranks as the second most common cause of death amongst young children. Drowning also ranks as the second leading cause of child injury, right behind car accidents.

Hardest Hit Demographics

Accidental drownings have impacted a disproportionate number of African Americans. This disparity is especially clear in the 5 to 14 age bracket, where African American children are three times as likely as whites to die from drowning. The disparity at swimming pools is even more pronounced, especially in the 11 to 12 age group, where African American children are 10 times likelier to die from drowning.

Primary Causes

Drowning deaths are largely due to lack of swimming skills, unsupervised pool access, drunkenness, seizures and the lack of life jackets.

Unsupervised Pool Access

The lack of fencing is a major cause of child fatalities at residential swimming pools. Four-sided (isolation) fencing is 83 percent likelier than three-way fencing (which attaches to the backside of a home like a shoehorn) to prevent children from drowning.

Black Water / Boating Accidents

While children are the primary victims of residential pool fatalities, the percentage of drownings in natural water increases with age. In drownings caused from boating accidents, almost nine out of ten fatalities are due to the failure to wear life jackets. Studies show that approximately half of all drownings caused by boating accidents could be prevented if all passengers wore life jackets.

Impact of Alcohol

Alcohol is responsible for 70 percent of all water-related deaths, as well as a fourth of all emergency visits and a fifth of all boating fatalities. This is due to the influence that alcohol has on a person’s balance and concentration, especially in humid conditions. Alcohol should never be consumed immediately prior to or during any boating, swimming or watersport activities.

Swimming Skills

By and large, people in their twenties and thirties have reported having better swimming skills than older Americans. Swimming skills are also known to be more consistent among males than females, and proportional to one’s education level. Additionally, swimming lessons are known to reduce drowning among young children.

Child Supervision

Children should always have designated adult supervisors whenever in or around a swimming pool. Since most drownings are faint and fast, supervisors should never be preoccupied with cards, magazines, cell phones or anything else distracting, even when lifeguards are on the scene.

Adult Responsibility

Adults should always swim in pairs or groups. Public swimming resorts should only be chosen if lifeguards are present. Furthermore, no one should ever hold their breath for any prolonged length before diving into a pool, because this can cause blackouts.

Special Conditions

Drownings caused by seizures most typically occur in bath tubs. Anyone prone to seizures should opt for showers instead of baths, and should always be supervised in or around a pool.

First Aid

One of the primary life savers in drowning incidents is CPR, especially in quick-response scenarios. Anyone who owns a pool should learn CPR, which can save lives in the time it would take for paramedics to get to a drowning scene.

Poolside Security and Maintenance

All residential pools should be enclosed with four-sided fencing with outward opening gates and latches that are above any child’s reach. Balls, air boats and other toys should all be removed from site when a pool is not in use, otherwise children might try to enter the area to retrieve such objects.


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