STYLE

New swimming survival program seeks to reduce drownings among teens

06/21/2012 02:46 EDT | Updated 08/21/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - As sweltering temperatures lure people to pools, lakes and rivers to cool down, the Lifesaving Society is hoping to prevent drownings among teens by strengthening their swimming skills before they hit high school.

Data collected by the society shows the overall number of drowning deaths nationwide decreased from 409 in 2010 to 347 in 2011.

But the number of drownings among teens aged 13 to 17 was up 18 per cent, from 22 in 2010 to 26 the following year.

Lifesaving Society spokeswoman Barbara Byers says adolescents are at an increased risk of drowning because they are likely to be swimming or boating with groups of friends and without adult supervision.

The new program called Swim to Survive Plus teaches grade seven students the basic skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water.

It also teaches pre-teens how to help a friend who is in trouble in the water without jeopardizing their own safety.

"It's natural to want to jump in after your friend to try to save them," said Byers. "But, you are putting both yourself and your friend at greater risk."

Instead, children are taught to call for help and encourage their friend to kick to safety. If they must reach out to assist the person, they learn to lie down and reach out with an aid, like a lifejacket or a pool noodle.

The kids wear clothes during the program to simulate what it's really like to unexpectedly fall into the water.

"With the clothes on it's a much more difficult swimming experience, so they'll have to be stronger and more fit to accomplish the program," said Byers.

The children also complete a fitness swim to improve their endurance in the water.

More than 1,000 teens have already participated in the pilot version of the program.

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