Background Although most persons over 5 years of age drown in open water, few laws have sought to regulate open water swim sites. We examined the association between regulations for designated open water swim sites and open water drowning death rates by state.
Methods Using International Classification of Disease (ICD)-10 codes in the CDC Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), we identified and calculated open water drowning deaths involving all ages from 2012 to 2017 for 50 states and calculated open water drowning death rates. We then identified and categorised types of state regulations (lifeguards, water quality, rescue equipment, tracking/planning/reporting and signage) for open water swim sites in place in 2017 for a sample of 30 states (20 high-drowning, 10 low-drowning). Analyses evaluated associations between open water drowning rates in three groups (overall, youth and non-white) and the total number and types of state regulations.
Results Swim site regulations and open water drowning death rates for 10 839 victims were associated in all regression models. States with more types of regulations had lower open water drowning death rates in a dose-response relationship. States lacking regulations compared with states with all five types of regulations had open water drowning death rates 3.02 times higher among youth (95% CI 1.82 to 4.99) and 4.16 times higher among non-white residents (95% CI 2.46 to 7.05). Lifeguard and tracking/planning/reporting regulations were associated with a 33% and 45% reduction in open water drowning rates overall and among those aged 0–17 years.
Conclusion States’ open water swim area regulations, especially addressing tracking/planning/reporting and lifeguards, were associated with lower open water drowning death rates.
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Contributors All authors contributed to the design, evaluation of the results, writing and final review of the manuscript.
Funding This study was funded by Seattle Children's Research Institute.
Disclaimer The funding had no role in collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; in the writing of the report; in the decision to submit the paper for publication.
Map disclaimer The depiction of boundaries on the map(s) in this article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of BMJ (or any member of its group) concerning the legal status of any country, territory, jurisdiction or area or of its authorities. The map(s) are provided without any warranty of any kind, either express or implied.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.