Unintentional drownings among New York State residents, 1988-1994

Public Health Rep. 2003 Sep-Oct;118(5):448-58. doi: 10.1093/phr/118.5.448.


Objective: This study examines situations in which drownings occur (environmental risk factors) and the victims' personal risk factors (age, gender, use of personal flotation device, medical condition, alcohol or drug use) to provide guidance for future drowning prevention efforts.

Methods: The authors investigated 883 non-bathtub drownings among New York State residents for the years 1988 to 1994 using medical examiner, coroner, police, and/or hospital records in addition to death certificate data.

Results: Males, children ages 0-4 years, and African American males ages 5-14 years residing in New York State outside New York City experienced the highest rates of drowning. The majority of drownings occurred in a natural body of water for all age groups, with the exception of children ages 0-4 years. Most drownings among children ages 0-4 years occurred in residential swimming pools. The child usually gained access to the pool via inadequate fencing, an open or ineffective gate, or a ladder (to an above-ground pool) left in the "down" position. Less than 10% of victims of watercraft-related drownings were wearing personal flotation devices. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests were positive for 44% of 250 persons 15 years of age and older for whom valid toxicology results were provided; 30% had BACs of 100 mg/dl or more.

Conclusions: Suggested prevention efforts include stricter enforcement of fencing requirements for residential swimming pools and drowning prevention education stressing personal flotation device use while boating and the danger of mixing alcohol and water-related activities.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Death Certificates
  • Drowning / classification
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Drowning / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Safety
  • Sex Distribution
  • Swimming Pools / statistics & numerical data
  • White People / statistics & numerical data