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Drownings Accidents In Open Water Now Exceeding Those In Swimming Pools

This summer thousands of people across the state of Maryland will partake in recreational activities involving the water. Many people will visit the ocean, as well as the regions many lakes and rivers to go swimming, canoeing, rafting and more. These activities have the potential to be very dangerous, as drowning is now currently the third most common accidental cause of death. Worldwide, there are roughly 360,000 fatal drownings each year. During 2016, approximately 43% of these deaths occurred to those in open water, while 38% occurred in swimming pools.

Those at Greater Risk

Generally, younger children are most likely to drown in private swimming pools, while older children tend to be at greater risk in open water. Other key statistical data includes:

  • Most fatal drowning accidents in open water environments involve teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age.
  • There is an adult present in roughly 62% of open water drownings, largely an indicator of insufficient supervision.
  • Approximately 20% of fatal drownings in open water involve children under five years old.
  • Over 80% of open water drowning victims are male, which often stems from risky behavior and horseplay.
  • Others at an increased risk include:
    • Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,
    • People who reside in rural areas,
    • Those unfamiliar with a particular body of water they visit such as tourists,
    • Individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Ocean Swimming

According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, over 370 million people visited ocean beaches in 2015. The majority of public beaches are monitored by lifeguards at peak times and in 2015 they made over 95,000 rescues of swimmers. Among beaches with lifeguards on-duty that year, there were still approximately 14 drownings in the U.S. Swimming in the ocean can be challenging for inexperienced swimmers or those who lack the strength to maintain themselves amid often powerful and unexpected currents.

River Swimming

Rivers present their own risk factors that can contribute to drowning accidents. At points where rivers become narrow, they tend to increase in water depth and the current flow may be much faster. Those floating on rafts that are not monitoring the area ahead of them may strike sharp rocks or other objects. Inflatables also pose a risk of being abruptly punctured by objects they hit. Drownings in rivers are most common when alcohol consumption is involved. Drowning victims in rivers may potentially be carried away by the current and found days later.

Drowning Prevention

  • Parents should enroll their children in swimming lessons and adults who are poor swimmers should take lessons as well.
  • Parents who are supervising children must remember to limit personal distractions.
  • Each year people are severely injured by diving into lakes and rivers when they strike something below the surface of the water.
  • Never go swimming alone—use the “buddy system.”
  • Many drowning incidents each year are partially attributed to excessive alcohol consumption—particularly in males 18 to 20 years of age.
  • If you become caught in a strong ocean current, you should remain calm and float parallel to the shoreline until the current subsides.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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