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12/15/2017 11:52:10 PM
Posted: 7/28/2001 6:22:19 AM EST
The Chicago Sun-Times July 28, 2001 Pools more dangerous than guns BY STEVEN D. LEVITT What's more dangerous: a swimming pool or a gun? When it comes to children, there is no comparison: A swimming pool is almost 100 times more deadly. In 1997 alone (the last year for which data are available), 742 children under age 10 drowned in the United States. About 550 of those--about 75 percent of the total--drowned in residential swimming pools. According to the most recent statistics, there are about 6 million residential pools, meaning that one child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools. About 100 children under 10 died in 1998 as a result of guns. About two-thirds of those deaths were homicides. There are an estimated 200 million guns in the United States. Doing the math, there is roughly one child killed by guns for every 1 million guns. Thus, on average, if you own a gun and have a swimming pool in the yard, the swimming pool is almost 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is. Don't get me wrong: My goal is not to promote guns, but rather to focus parents on an even greater threat to their children. People are well-aware of the danger of guns and, by and large, gun owners take the appropriate steps to keep guns away from children. Public attitudes toward pools, however, are much more cavalier because people simply do not know the facts. It takes 30 seconds for a child to drown. Infants can drown in only a few inches of water. Child drownings are typically silent. As a parent, if you let your guard down for an instant, a pool (or even a bucket of water) may steal your child's life. The Consumer Products Safety Commission offers a publication detailing simple steps to safeguard pools (available on the Internet: www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/359. html). The advice is mostly common-sense. Suggestions include installing fences that entirely surround the pool, putting locks on the gates, keeping doors locked so toddlers cannot slip out of the house unmonitored, and installing power safety covers for the pool. If every parent followed these steps, perhaps as many as 400 lives per year might be saved. This would be more lives saved than from two of the most successful safety interventions in recent decades: child car seats and safer cribs. Potential lives saved from pool safety are far greater than from child-resistant packaging (an estimated 50 lives saved per year), keeping children away from airbags (fewer than five young children a year have been killed by air bags since their introduction), flame-retardant pajamas (perhaps 10 lives saved annually), or safety drawstrings on children's clothing (two lives saved annually). Simply stated, keeping your children safe around water is one of the single most important things a parent can do to protect a child. As a father who has lost a son, I know the unbearable pain that comes with a child's death. Amid my grief, I am able to take some small solace in the fact that everything possible was done to fight the disease that took my son's life. If my son had died in a backyard pool due to my own negligence, I would not even have that to cling to. Parents who have lost children would do anything to get their babies back. Safeguard your pool so you don't become one of us.
Link Posted: 7/28/2001 6:22:53 AM EST
Steven Levitt is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a research associate of the American Bar Foundation. http://www.suntimes.com/output/otherviews/cst-edt-ref28.html
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