National Center Quick-Look

Accidental Drowning Deaths

Collect: The National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention collects information on accidental drowning deaths in the National Fatality Review-Case Reporting System (NFR-CRS).

Data: From 2004 to 2017 there have been over 5400 accidental drowning deaths to children under age 18 years old reviewed and entered in the CRS by participating teams. (Some percentages in this Quick-Look may not add up to 100% due to rounding.)

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For every 10 accidental drowning deaths, 7 were boys and 3 were girls
Sex: Male, 70%; Female 30%
58% of children who died were under 5 years old
21% were non-Hispanic Black, an overrepresentation in the population

Location of Incident
37% occurred in rural areas
33% occurred in suburban areas
29% occurred in urban areas
52% occurred at the child’s, relatives’, or friends’ home

Person Supervising
43% had supervision at the time of the incident
41% didn’t have supervision but it was needed
62% of supervisors were parents
Other supervisors included grandparents (10%) and other relatives (12%)

Accidental Drowning Source
49% of drownings occurred in a pool, hot tub, or spa
33% occurred in an open body of water. (Open body of water refers to oceans, seas, and lakes, but it also includes smaller pools of water such as ponds.)
11% occurred in a bathtub
Children under 1 year old were most likely to have drowned in a bathtub (75%)
Children 1 to 9 years old were most likely to have drowned in a pool, hot tub, or spa (63%)
Children 10 to 17 years old were most likely to have drowned in open water (68%)

Barriers and Layers of Protection
Teams identified no barriers of protection for pools or open water in 57% of the deaths
Teams identified at least one layer of protection was breached in 40% of the deaths
Common barriers/layers of protection include fences, pool covers, and pool alarms

Prevention Resources

Safe Kids Worldwide: Swimming

Safe Kids Worldwide: Water Safety Tips at Home

Children’s Safety Network: Drowning Prevention

Water Safety USA

This quick look was made possible in part by Cooperative Agreement Numbers UG7MC28482 and UG7MC31831 from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) as part of an award totaling $1,099,997 annually with 0 percent financed with non-governmental sources. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

These data represent a smaller percent of the cases entered into the CRS. For more information about the data contained in this Quick-Look, please visit