Drowning and Injuries Associated with Swimming and Boating

The Scope of the Problem


  • From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.1
  • About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.1 For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.1
  •  More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries). These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).1

 In Maryland

  • Drowning was the 2nd leading cause of death for children aged 0-4 in 2015.
  • There were a total of 48 drowning related deaths and 19 (39.6%) of those were among the 45-64 age group.2
  •  A total of 139 people were treated in emergency departments in 2015. Thirty percent (40) of them were children age 4 and under, and 22% (30) were between 5-14 of age.2
Boating Safety

  • In 2016, the Coast Guard counted 4,463 accidents that involved 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries and approximately $49 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.3
  • Where cause of death was known, 80% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 83% were not wearing a life jacket.3
  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 15% of deaths.3

 In Maryland​

  •  A total of 150 accidents were reported in 2016, which is a 36% increase compared to 110 reported in 2013.3
  •  There were a total of 11 fatal accidents resulting in 16 death.3
Drowning and Injury Prevention

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim. 
  • Use life jackets appropriately.  Wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if you know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too.
  • Foam or inflatable pool toys are not designed to prevent drowning and should not be used as substitutes for life jackets.
  • Provide continuous, close supervision to swimmers and to children near the water.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • If you are at the beach, be aware of rip currents. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore until free of the current.
  • Know CPR.

     Prevent access to water when pool is not in use.

    •  Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
    •  Use locks/alarms for windows and doors.

     For More Information



    1. CDC Injury Prevention and Control: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/LeadingCauses.html
    2. Maryland Department of Health (2015). 2015 Statistics on Injury Related, Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Death compiled by the Center for Injury and Sexual Assault Prevention.
    3. U.S. Coast Guard: http://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2016.pdf