The 2018/19 Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report shows a 10% increase in drownings, higher in the 0-4 age group.
The nature of the swim safety industry means that I often find myself writing about the dangers of the water and the tragic losses sustained. Each loss saddens myself and my colleagues greatly, as we are well aware that these are people, often children, we are talking about, not just statistics. Which is why it is really tragic to read the findings in this year’s Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report, especially after last year’s analysis reported the lowest number of drownings in 15 years.
The 2018/19 figures show that 276 people lost their lives to drowning between 1st July 2018 and 30th June 2019 and an estimated further 584 people experienced a non-fatal drowning incident, many of whom will suffer long term effects. This represents a 10% increase on drowning deaths when compared to the previous year, and highlights the fact that we need to remain vigilant in terms of year round water safety.
Sadly, 19 children between the ages of 0-4 lost their lives in the past year – a 12% increase in drownings within our most vulnerable group. Accidental falls into water remain the leading activity prior to drowning among this age group, accounting for 84% of all deaths. This is simply devastating for the families involved. Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death of children under 5 years, so we can never underestimate the importance of swimming skills and supervision around water.
8 children between the ages of 5 and 14 were also lost in the same period, emphasising the importance of swimming lessons until children are able to swim competently, as “swimming and recreating” was the leading activity immediately prior to drowning.
These statistics scare me, and always have, so I absolutely practise what I preach. My children started swimming lessons at 6 months, and by the age of 2 could all turn around, paddle to the edge, and pull themselves out of the pool. They continued lessons until they could swim at least 50 metres, with my 5 year old still participating in 2 lessons weekly. Of course I still need to supervise, but swimming skills from a young age are a piece of the personal water safety puzzle that simply cannot be neglected. Please, enrol your children in swimming lessons if they are not already working towards these skills, whether you have a backyard pool or not. We can never drown proof our children, but we can do everything possible make them safer.