Americans Not As Safe In Water As They Think

Updated: 05/20/2014 11:03 PM
Created: 05/20/2014 10:56 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Memorial Day is just around the corner and the unofficial start to summer always draws thousands of people to Minnesota's lakes and outdoor pools.

But new research shows many aren't as safe as they may think while out on the water.

According to a new study from the American Red Cross, 80 percent of Americans say they can swim, but only 56 percent of those would actually pass a basic swimming test.

When you factor in people who admit they can't swim, less than half the country is safe on the water.

"They say 54 percent of adult Americans cannot swim well enough to save themselves if they were in a predicament in the water,” said Cindy Bowe, the aquatic director at the YMCA in Austin.

That means the majority of people would be unable to go under water and come back up, tread water for a minute, swim 25 yards and get out of a pool without using a ladder.

At the YMCA in Austin, officials said they see a number of adults come in for swimming lessons, but more often they just want their children to be safe.

"We do get a lot of children, when their parents bring them to lessons, one of the things they're concerned about is that they don't know how to swim, and they want to make sure their child does learn that skill, because it's a lifelong skill,” Bowe said.

Experts said kids or adults who aren't strong swimmers should know their limits and err on the side of caution.

"They always want to swim preferably in a lifeguarded area,” Bowe said. “They always want to be with a buddy so that they are not alone."

This year the YMCA in Austin will receive grant money that will be used to provide swimming lessons for kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Officials said they want to make sure that even families who can't afford lessons can stay safe.

ABC 6 News