Drowning claims the lives of ten people in the United States each day. It’s the fifth leading cause of traumatic death in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and children are particularly vulnerable. One in 5 people who die from unintentional drowning are under the age of 14 and, for every one of those children who die, another five are rushed to the emergency room with life-threatening water-related injuries.
But not all parts of the United States are equally vulnerable. Here’s a map of unintentional drowning rates among children under the age of 19, based on CDC data. The numbers suggest that the northeast is relatively safe, while parents visiting Alaska or Florida this summer may want to keep an extra close eye on their little ones—especially around swimming pools.
A few notes on this map. Drowning rates are calculated as deaths per 100,000 citizens, which means that rates in Florida are likely inflated—even as tourists rush to drown in Miami, the city’s actual population remains unchanged. Ditto for other vacation hot spots on the map. It is also noteworthy that Delaware, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont all reported fewer than 20 deaths total, so the CDC reported their rates per 100,000 simply as 0.
The CDC has uncovered a few important risk factors for drowning. Nearly 80 percent of victims are male, and black children are up to 10 times more likely to drown in swimming pools than white children. Studies suggest a fence around a backyard swimming pool reduces a child’s risk of drowning by 83 percent. Up to 70 percent of adolescents who drown were drunk at the time.
One of the best ways parents can protect their children from drowning is to never let them swim unsupervised, and to invest in formal swimming lessons. One study found that swimming lessons was associated with an 88 percent risk reduction for children under the age of 4. “The main factors that affect drowning risk are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders,” according to the CDC.