As families take to the water this summer, there is reason for extra caution: Two-thirds of fatal drownings occur each year between May and August. New research out today, conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide with support from Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program, presents the scope of the drowning problem in the U.S. and uncovers misconceptions that are giving families a false sense of security and leading to these far too common tragedies.


Drowning in the U.S.: The Scope of the Problem
In 2014, 784 children fatally drowned in the U.S., and more than half of them were under age 5. In fact, among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1-4 years of age, the second leading cause of death for children 5-14 years of age, and the third leading cause for children under 1 and older teens ages 15-17.

The new report shows that drowning risk varies by a child’s age and location:

  • Children less than a year old are more likely to drown at home in a bathroom or bucket
  • Children 1-4 years old are more likely to drown in a pool
  • Children ages 5 years and older are more likely to drown in natural water, such as ponds, lakes and rivers

“Drowning is silent and quick. Far too many of our sons and daughters are drowning,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “We need to get the word out to all parents to debunk the common and persistent misconceptions that can lead to drowning.”

Persistent Misconceptions
The research exposed that a number of misconceptions persist regarding water safety, and that if left unchallenged, can increase children’s risk of drowning.

“At Nationwide, we believe it is critical to start with caregivers’ current understanding as a foundation to inform the home safety tips and tools that we put out through the Make Safe Happen program,” said Elicia Azali, Associate Vice President at Nationwide. “We are so grateful to partner with the experts at Safe Kids Worldwide on this new research that will continue to help guide our collective water safety efforts.”

Some of the misconceptions include:

Misconception 1:  I will hear my child if he/she gets in trouble in the water and starts to drown.
Drowning is silent. In real life, there can be very little splashing, waving or screaming.
FINDING: Nearly half of the parents surveyed think that if a child was drowning nearby, they would hear him/her.
TIP:  Keep your eyes on your kids when they are in the water.

Misconception 2:  Nothing bad will happen if I take my full attention off of my child for a couple of minutes.
Drowning is quick. The reality is that once a child begins to struggle, parents may have less than a minute to react.
FINDING: One in three parents surveyed has left their child at a pool for two or more minutes without supervision.
TIP:  Because drowning happens fast, keep young children within arms’ reach of an adult at all times. Make sure older children swim with a partner.

Misconception 3:  If there is a lifeguard present, I don’t need to worry as much about actively supervising my child in and around water.
A lifeguard’s job is to enforce pool rules, scan, rescue and resuscitate, not keep an eye on any specific child.
FINDING: More than half of the parents surveyed think that when present, a lifeguard is the main person responsible for their child’s supervision.
TIP:  Be alert and responsible for your child when he/she is in or around water. If you are socializing, like at a pool party, assign a Water Watcher so everyone is clear who is watching the kids at any given time.

Misconception 4:  If my child has had swim lessons I don’t have to worry about him/her drowning.
Swim lessons are essential, but skill level varies.
FINDING: A review of children who drowned in a pool revealed that 42 percent of 5 to 17 year olds reportedly knew how to swim.
TIP:  Swimming skills are developed and improve over time. Make sure your child learns to swim and develops these five water survival skills:

  1. Step or jump into the water over their heads
  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute
  3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit from the water
  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit
  5. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder

Parents and caregivers are also encouraged to take CPR training, download a Water Watcher Card, and visit and for more information.

The full report includes more misconceptions, detailed findings and additional statistics.


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