It is estimated that 85 percent of boating-related drownings could have been prevented if the victim had been wearing a personal flotation device. Rivers pose a threat because people can be easily pulled under water by the swift water currents.

  • A current is created when a body of water is moving along a natural course – these can be very fast or swift.
  • An undertow is a strong current just below the surface that usually moves in a direction different than the surface water. These can usually pull a person away from the shore or safe swimming area.
  • In 2003, 21 children, ages 14 an under drowned in reported recreational boating accidents.
  • In 2003, 62 percent of children ages 14 and under, who drowned in reported recreational boating accidents were not wearing personal flotation devices or life jackets.
  • In 2003, 200 children ages 14 and under sustained injuries in reported recreational boating accidents involving personal watercraft.
  • A person can get pinned or held in one position by the force of the water’s current.
  • Forty-four states have enacted boating safety laws requiring children to wear personal flotation devices at all times when on boats or near open bodies of water. These laws vary in age requirements, exemptions and enforcement of procedures. Recreational boats must carry one properly sized, U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device, accessible and in good condition, for each person on board.
  • Approximately, half of all boating deaths occur on Saturdays and Sundays between the months of May and August.

Preventing River-related Accidents

  • There is no substitute for the supervision of a responsible adult.
  • Always keep children in your direct line-of-sight – always.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device when on a boat, near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Air-filled swimming aids, such as “water wings” are not considered safety devices and are not substitutes for personal flotation devices.
  • Children ages 14 and under should never operate a personal watercraft.
  • Never enter a river if you see “Caution” or “Prohibited” signs.
  • Make sure that you are in a “Designated Swimming Area” before entering the water.
  • Plunging headfirst into the water is dangerous, even deadly because it’s often hard to determine how deep the water is and there are hidden dangers underwater, such as trees and rocks.
  • Attempts to swim from one side of the river to the other can be dangerous, as the distance turns out to be further than originally thought.

Facts and statistics were taken from The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy statement on ‘Drowning in Infants, Children and Adolescents,’ The Center for Disease Control Statistics on Unintentional Drownings and the National “Safe Kids” Worldwide program.