TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida continues to top the list of states with the most drowning deaths, many of the victims being children. Now, two Florida state representatives are trying to change that with a policy that would require water safety education in schools.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami and Rep. James Bush III filed bills SB680 and HB 325 this month, which would both require age-appropriate water safety instruction to be included in health education courses for students in grades K through 12.
That age group is at the most risk of drowning, with about one in five fatal drowning victims being children 14 and younger according CDC. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
Currently, New Jersey is the only other state that has introduced similar legislation this year with Bill A-269, which would require school districts to provide instruction on water safety as part of New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.
In 2018, Florida led the nation in drowning deaths with 1,945 deaths. Texas had the second most with 1,857, according to data from the CDC.
“Water safety education is really important for everyone. We’re always excited to see attention given to something so important,” said executive director of USA Swim School Association Executive Director Lisa Zarda. “Learning to swim is definitely a process and takes time, and there are a lot of factors that go into saying someone can swim.”
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, at least 148 children under the age of 15 fatally drowned in swimming pools or spas between Memorial Day and Labor Day of 2018 alone.
That number is down approximately 9 percent from the 163 children younger than 15 who drowned in 2017.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that Florida historically has one of the highest drowning rates in the country, with 21 deaths between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2018, matched only by Texas, which also had 21 drownings between that time period.
WaterSmartFl, which is backed by the Florida Department of Health, has some simple tips for child safety around any body of water:
- Supervision: Supervision, the first and most crucial layer of protection, means someone is always actively watching when a child is in the pool.
- Barriers: Barriers physically block a child from the pool.
- Emergency Preparedness: In an emergency, it is critical to know CPR, to have a phone nearby, and to immediately call 911. Swim lessons and life jackets are preventive measures that save lives.