May is National Water Safety Month, and with public pools set to open their gates over Memorial Day weekend, it’s the perfect time to focus on swimming safety and drowning prevention—especially for children.

As families eagerly await the opportunity to cool off and dive into backyard pools, it’s crucial to be vigilant about these environments’ potential dangers.

Childhood drowning remains a tragically overlooked epidemic, claiming the lives of nearly a thousand children in the United States each year. It stands as the leading cause of death among children ages one to four, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For children between five and 14, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death, only behind car accidents.

These alarming statistics underscore a critical need for heightened public education on water safety.

While large bodies of water like oceans and lakes often come to mind when thinking of drowning risks, residential swimming pools pose a higher risk to young children.

To combat this, there are effective, common-sense measures that can be taken at home to enhance water safety. Four-sided isolation fencing in every pool could prevent 50-90% of childhood drownings and near drownings.

Equally crucial is the vigilant supervision of children in and around water; a watchful eye can make all the difference. Tragically, nine out of 10 drowning deaths happen when a caregiver is supervising but not paying attention.

In addition to these precautions, it’s essential for parents to be prepared for emergencies. Learning CPR and ensuring that they themselves are competent swimmers are vital steps. There is a clear correlation between parents’ swimming abilities and their children’s; proficient swimming parents are more likely to have children who are comfortable and capable in the water.

Perhaps most critically, enrolling children in learn-to-swim programs can provide them with lifesaving skills and the confidence to enjoy water more safely. In fact, research shows that formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent.

The optimal age to start swim lessons is different for each child, with high-quality programs available for babies and young toddlers. Rather than swimming skills, these early lessons focus on acclimating children to be comfortable in the water and learning basic skills, like floating and paddling.

Legislative initiatives also play a pivotal role in promoting water safety.

New York has set a promising precedent with its recent legislation requiring hospitals to offer new parents a video on drowning prevention. This initiative, championed by the New York Water Safety Coalition and signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, represents a proactive step towards safeguarding our children.

Such policies should be embraced and replicated across the country. By investing in public education and enacting laws that ensure every child has the opportunity to learn to swim, we can create a safer environment for our children. States looking to enhance the safety of their youngest residents should consider similar legislation, expanding the reach of education, training, and resources dedicated to water safety.

Ultimately, water safety education is not just a policy issue but a community responsibility. As families prepare for pool season this National Water Safety Month, awareness and education about the risks of drowning must be amplified. It is only through collective effort and informed prevention strategies that we can hope to combat this preventable tragedy and ensure that our children can safely enjoy the pleasures of summer.