TRENTON, N.J. – Visits to the pool and trips down the Shore define New Jersey summers. While the focus should be on fun, knowing how to prevent drowning or identify a drowning victim will ensure a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.
One of Assemblyman Sean Kean’s missions is to raise awareness of this preventable tragedy. His joint resolution (AJR141), passed by the Assembly Thursday, would designate the third full week of May as Roxie’s Wish: Drowning Prevention Week for Children.
“No one wants to think their child will get hurt, but it takes only a few seconds and just enough water to cover the mouth and nose to drown. It can happen even when adults are nearby,” Kean (R-Monmouth) said. “Dedicating a week at the start of swim season to educate the public on water safety and drowning prevention will save lives.”
The resolution is named for six-year-old Roxie Forbes, who in 2019 drowned while at summer camp in California. Although her family resided on the West Coast when she died, her parents are former New Jersey residents. After Roxie’s passing, her father, Doug Forbes, started the Meow Meow Foundation to push for better regulation of summer camps and raise awareness of water safety.
Aside from birth defects, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages four and younger. Only motor vehicle accidents claim more lives in children ages five to 14. Overall, drowning was the second-leading cause of death in children ages 18 and younger between 2010 and 2019.
For every child who drowns, another eight receive emergency room care for nonfatal water-related injuries, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such drownings can cause long-term cognitive and motor-skill impairments.
Kean said parents and caregivers can take easy steps to prevent drowning. First, formal swim lessons cut drowning risk by 88% according to studies. Second, most childhood drownings happen in pools; diligently teach children pool safety and create barriers to easy access. Children who don’t yet know how to swim should always wear life jackets when in or near the water.
“Most childhood drownings occur between May and August, so it’s a service to our residents to annually proclaim this third week in May a drowning prevention week for children,” Kean added. “I hope that with prevention education more children can have safe, happy summers in the water, and their parents and caregivers can have peace of mind.”