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Water Safety

From 2010-2019, there were an average of 3,957 unintentional drowning deaths (non-boating related) annually in the United States, according to the CDC. For children ages 1-14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes. For every child who dies from drowning, another eight receive emergency department care for non-fatal drowning. More than 40% of drownings treated in emergency departments require hospitalization or transfer for further care, compared with 8% for all unintentional injures. These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permananent vegatative state).

The United States Coast Guard's 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics Report revealed that there were 767 boating fatalities nationwide in 2020, reflecting a 25.1 percent increase from 2019. The total number of accidents increased 26.3 percent from 2019 to 2020, with evidence suggesting that boating activity increased significantly during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Coast Guard report, alcohol continued to be a leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2020, accounting for 18 percent of total fataliti

Risk Factors

  • Drowning can occur in as little as one inch of water. It can occur in bathtubs, pools, hot tubs, and also while boating and swimming.
  • 88% of children were under some form of supervision when they drowned, according to child death review surveys. Of all drownings reviewed, 39% occurred in pools, 37% occurred in open bodies of water and 18% occurred in an around the home.
  • Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than 5 minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.
  • Male children have a drowning rate two-to four times that of female children.


  • Never allow children to swim without adult supervision.
  • When supervising children, do not engage in distracting behaviors, such as talking on the phone, reading, playing cards, or mowing the lawn. Watch and listen continuously.
  • Barriers, such as pool fencing, prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area without caregivers' awareness. A four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child's risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.
  • Never leave toys that may attract young children in or around a pool.
  • Children should be enrolled in swimming lessons by age eight.
  • Children should always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) when boating or are in or near open bodies of water.
  • Do not use any type of air-filled or foam toys, such as rafts, "water wings", "noodles", or inner-tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised accessed, are still important.
  • Educate children about the rules of water safety.


Source: CDC

Page last updated: May 20, 2024