May is National Water Safety Month

Even if you love winter, it’s always nice to welcome back the warmer weather and longer daylight hours. Sure, there’s grass to mow and humid days ahead, but there’s also ice cream to eat and water to cool off in. In preparation for splashing at the beach, relaxing in the pool, playing at the waterpark, and cruising around on the lake, several organizations have coordinated an annual awareness campaign observed every May to educate the public on the importance of water safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 46,000 people died from drowning in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010. For children under age five, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death, with rates even surpassing those of traffic accident fatalities. Children in this age group drowned most commonly in pools, while older children and adults who drowned succumbed in natural bodies of water. That’s certainly true in the case of a 15-year old Johnson County boy who drowned last month in Paintsville Lake after falling into the water. Teaching children to swim is a vital tool to prevent drowning, but kids aren’t water-safe just because they’ve had swimming lessons. To help protect small children, never leave your child unattended around water. It doesn’t take much time or depth for children to drown, so don’t allow yourself to get distracted by your phone or to take a nap. This applies even if there are lifeguards on duty. Do not assume that you should not supervise your child, because it can be very hard for a lifeguard to spot a small child in trouble in a large, crowded pool.

At home, empty all tubs, buckets, containers, and wading pools immediately after use and store them upside down.
If you have a pool, make sure you have adequate safety fencing surrounding it that is at least four feet high with a self-latching, self-closing gate that keeps small children from entering the pool area. Instruct all swimmers to stay away from drains and to tie-up long hair to prevent entanglement. If a drain cover becomes loose or falls off, shut down the pool immediately and call a professional for repair. The U.S. Swim School Association recommends creating a process that your child must go through before entering a pool, such as putting on a swim diaper, a swimsuit, and sunscreen. Your child will learn that these steps are necessary for pool time, giving you more time to intercept if they decide to do it on their own. It’s also wise not to rely on flotation devices or inflatable armbands to keep a child afloat in the water, because they interfere with learning to float/swim unassisted, which is crucial if a child falls into water unexpectedly. If you prefer to be on the water rather than in it, there are ways you can increase safety. Boating accidents are similar to vehicle accidents in that operator carelessness or recklessness is often the cause of accidents and fatalities. Help yourself by:
  • Obeying the posted speed limits and wake warnings
  • Making sure anyone who drives the boat is properly trained
  • Checking that your boat is in proper working order each time you launch
  • Taking a boating course to refresh your skills
  • Never operating the boat while intoxicated
  • Having enough personal floatation devices (PFD) for everyone on board.
Kentucky law requires life jackets to be worn by:
  • All children under age 12 while in the open portion of a boat on Kentucky waters
  • Anyone being towed on skis, a tube, wake board or the like
  • Anyone riding on a personal watercraft (PWC)
  • Everyone aboard when boating within 800 feet below a hydro-electric dam and/or navigational lock and dam.
Life jackets should also be worn by children of all ages, everyone onboard during rough weather, and anyone who cannot swim. The last line of defense to prevent drowning is always a life vest, so set an example for your passengers and wear one. Take a few minutes to educate yourself about water safety and consider how you can make improvements. If you have any questions about this topic or believe that someone else’s negligence caused your swimming injury, your boating injury, or the wrongful death of a loved one, you can find out more by discussing it with the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm. Contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or filling out our online form.

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