Drowning is a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19 in the United States, yet, it is often overlooked in discussions of health issues, given the Covid-19 pandemic and the constant threat of storms, accidents and violence. Unfortunately, overlooking or underestimating the dangers of pools and spas can be especially devastating for parents in Florida, where close to 70 children die in drowning accidents each year, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
For children 0 – 9 years old, Florida has the highest drowning death rate of any state in the U.S. (3.28 per 100,000), as reported by the Florida Department of Health. In addition, for children ages 0 to 17, Florida was ranked 5th in the U.S. (behind Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Kentucky) for unintentional drowning deaths (1.65 per 100,000 population) in 2019.
Across the country, drowning is, tragically, the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4. A new report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that age, sex and race are factors that affect drowning rates. For example, toddlers and teenage boys are at greatest risk of drowning, with boys ages 15 to 19 being 10 times more likely to drown than girls. Black children ages 5 to 19 are five-and-a half times more likely to drown in pools than White children, and neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities also increase the risk of drowning.
No matter what the victim’s developmental ability level, race or age, a drowning death or life-threatening submersion injury is a tragedy. Fortunately, there are feasible strategies for preventing these injuries.
How to Prevent Florida Pool and Spa Drowning Accidents
While most infant drowning accidents occur in bathtubs, most drownings involving preschool-age children occur in pools, and among children of all ages, approximately 32% of drowning deaths occur in pools. Therefore, supervising children around pools and ensuring that pool areas are as safe as possible is important for all Florida parents, child caretakers and property owners with pools and spas.
The Florida Department of Health’s water safety initiative, WaterSmartFL, recommends taking a multiple pronged approach to water safety, involving:
- Vigilant Supervision – Having a responsible person constantly watching children in an around pools and spas is imperative. Designating a “Water Watcher” to watch all the children and adults around a pool and/or spa is a good idea. This Water Watcher must take his or her role very seriously and not be distracted by cell phones, books, ear pods or conversations with other people.
- Pool Safety Education – Children and adults who are around pools should be taught basic water safety rules and how to safely help someone in trouble. It is especially important for children to understand that they should never swim or play near pool drains, since serious, even fatal injuries can occur due to drain entrapment. Numerous water safety programs are available throughout Florida to help families and communities prevent drowning accidents.
- Safe Pool Environments – For pools built after October 1, 2000, the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act requires at least one of the following pool safety measures: a self-closing fence enclosing the pool, an approved pool cover, alarms on all doors and windows leading out to the pool, a self-closing device on all doors that provide direct access to the pool. The Florida Department of Health recommends that all pools have multiple barriers installed and used properly to help ensure pool safety.
Accountability for Drowning Accidents at Florida Pools
Although these safety measures and caveats about safety education and close supervision seem easy enough to implement, Florida property owners can be lax in maintaining safe pool environments for children. Sadly, their laxity can cause serious, even fatal, drowning accidents.
If your child or another loved one has been injured while at someone else’s pool, spa or hot tub in Florida, an experienced pool and drowning accident attorney can help you pursue justice and hold the responsible parties accountable. The expert legal team of Boyers Law Group is here in Miami, with additional office locations by appointment in Orlando and Jacksonville, and is ready to put our experience, skill and resources to work helping you to pursue justice throughout Florida.