Water and Swimming Safety: Tips to Prevent Drowning

On average, there are ten fatal drownings per day in the United States.

87% of drowning fatalities happen in home pools or hot tubs, with 23% of drownings occurring during family gatherings near a pool.

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children, while adolescents have the second-highest drowning rate of any age group – teens are more likely to overestimate their skills and underestimate dangerous situations.

In addition, alcohol is a leading risk factor in drownings and research shows about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol by 12th grade.

While younger children are more likely to drown in swimming pools, teens are three times more likely than younger children to drown in natural bodies of water like lakes, rivers, oceans, and ponds.

Water Safety Tips

Drownings happen in seconds – they’re fast, often silent, and can happen to anyone (even good swimmers).

Observing proper water safety measures like the ones outlined below can go a long way toward preventing drownings.

  • Designate a water watcher. Water watchers are responsible for constant supervision of those in and around the pool/water areas.
  • Adults should always closely supervise children, even when lifeguards are present.
  • All pools should be fenced and fully enclosed. Kiddie pools should be fenced or emptied when not in use.
  • Floats and pool toys, including inflatables, are not life-saving safety devices. Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for weaker or non-swimmers around water and pools.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while boating. This applies to people of all ages and swimming abilities.
  • Learn CPR. CPR saves lives.
  • Keep a phone nearby to call 9-1-1 in the event of a drowning or other emergency.
  • Learn to swim. This year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provided grant funding through its SWIM Program to enable several local organizations to give free swim lessons to residents of all ages. Visit the state website for a list of organizations or contact your local parks and recreation department or public pool to find free swimming lessons near you. Contact your local parks and recreation department or public pool to find swimming lessons. 

Additional Tips for Keeping Your Teen Safe

  • Make sure they can swim! Visit the state website for a list of local organizations offering free swim lessons.
  • Even though your teen may crave independence, continue to supervise – it saves lives.
  • Teach your teen to always enter feet-first when entering the water for the first time.
  • Remind them to use extra caution when swimming in unfamiliar bodies of water, as there can be hazards like rocks, ledges, cars, or other objects below the water’s surface.
  • Encourage them to swim where there are lifeguards and in marked swimming areas. 
  • Recommend swimming with a buddy. Avoid swimming alone.
  • Follow “No Swimming” or “No Diving” posted instructions. Diving into unsafe or shallow water can lead to serious, and sometimes permanent, spinal injuries.
  • Stay sober on the water. Learn more about talking with your teen about alcohol use.
  • Teach your teens that swimming in natural water spots like rivers, oceans, and lakes can present unique safety risks.
  • Avoid swimming at beaches with large waves and watch for signs of undertows or rip currents.
  • Avoid swimming in boating or fishing areas. Encourage your teens to become familiar with tide charts and to always know the status of the tide. Discourage bridge jumping.

Death by drowning is preventable. By following the safety tips above, you can help ensure a safe swim for all.

View our Water Safety Brochure.

This blog was submitted by the South Shore Health Trauma Program.

Learn more about our Injury Prevention Program.