Corps Reminds Public to Play It Safe This Summer

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Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer and serves as the official kick-off for seasonal recreation outdoor fun.

Now is the time to start thinking about water safety. Each year, approximately 4,000 people die in the United States from unintentional drowning, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. About half of those drownings occurred in natural waters, like rivers, ponds and lakes. In fact, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States for all ages. Yet, it is possible – just by wearing a life jacket, or taking other precautions – to reduce drowning deaths.

On average, 9 out of 10 people who drowned at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed lake or river didn’t wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue.

Most people who drown never intended to be in the water; they unexpectedly fell from a boat or dock into the water. When this happens, a person will reflexively gasp and can inhale up to one liter of water and drown in less than a minute.

Others get into trouble swimming out to retrieve a boat that floated away, or swimming in association with a boat. Swimming in natural waters is not the same as swimming in a pool. Even strong swimmers can get into trouble and be gone within seconds. It takes an adult about 60 seconds to drown and a child about 20 seconds to drown. Swimming ability also decreases with age.

In 2013, there were 560 recreational boating-related deaths and 2,620 injuries. Where cause of death was known, 77 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Alcohol and water don’t mix. More than half of all drowning deaths are related to alcohol consumption.