The drowning death rate climbs as children enter their teenage years and begin to "push the envelope" with riskier behaviour.
Most teenage drownings happen at lakes and rivers, less so at the home pool. Half of fatal incidents occur while swimming, but other aquatic activities enter the mix as well, including powerboating, diving and jumping into water, and partying near or on the water.
Diving into shallow water is a particularly high risk activity, whose impact is only partially reflected in the drowning statistics. Many other victims suffer a broken neck or catastrophic spinal cord injury and, while they survive the incident, are paralyzed for life.
More than half of 13 to 17-year-old victims were not with adults when they drowned - either alone or with other minors. And one in five were non-swimmers or weak swimmers. Although still underage, alcohol and drugs play a significant role in elevating risk for 13 to 17-year-old victims.
Drowning prevention tips
Learn to swim.
In Canada, knowing how to swim is a life skill. In families new to Canada, older children may not have learned to swim in their younger years. Teens, like younger children, need to at least be able to stay afloat.
In its Swim to Survive® Standard, the Lifesaving Society defines the minimum standard of swimming skill: roll into deep water, tread water for one minute, swim 50 metres. These are the essential minimum skills required to survive an unexpected fall into deep water.
Swim to Survive is only a first step to being safe around water. The Lifesaving Society's Swim and Lifesaving programs offer a wide range of aquatic training well beyond Swim to Survive.
Get the training.
If you have a pool, cottage or camp, ensure that family members learn lifesaving skills. Teens should enroll in lifesaving and lifeguarding courses such as the Bronze Medallion and National Lifeguard to obtain the skills for a lifetime of fun in the water and as preparation for a vocation as a lifeguard or swim instructor.
Protect your neck.
Spinal injuries are catastrophic, often rendering a teen paralyzed for life. Reduce the risk by entering unknown water feet first; by not diving in shallow lakes or pools; and by refraining from horseplay in a pool or waterfront area.
Wear your lifejacket: it won't work if you don't wear it.
Most drowning victims never intend to get in the water. Trying to put a lifejacket on just before you capsize is like trying to buckle a seat belt just before you have a car crash.
Always swim with a buddy.
Most drowning victims can swim. But just because you're a good swimmer, doesn't mean you'll be able to take care of yourself if you get into trouble. Learn lifesaving skills so you can save yourself and help to save your buddy.