Water safety not just for kids; April is Adult Learn to Swim Month

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It's not just kids who need to learn about safety in the water. Many adults don't know how to swim, and are at risk for drowning. This month is Adult Learn to Swim Month, and Valley residents are taking the opportunity to learn the basics in the water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of American adults can't swim the length of a pool, which puts them at risk of being one of the 10 people who drown every day in the United States.

Last year alone, 29 adults drowned in Maricopa and Pinal Counties.

Now, the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona (DPCA)  is hoping to change those statistics by raising awareness about adult safety around the water.

"When we see adults come in with a drowning call, it's very often people who have some swimming skills, but unfortunately they made some mistakes with their swimming," says Dr. William Mostow, an E.R. doctor at Banner Del Webb in Sun City West.

The biggest problem he sees concerns the use of alcohol. "If you swim and mix alcohol, sometimes you have the tendency to misjudge your ability to swim and get yourself into situations that are unsafe," says Dr. Mostow. "Sometimes peer pressure plays a part. And sometimes it's medical emergencies that out you at risk, like heart attacks, strokes and seizures when you swim."

On Wednesday's Good Morning Arizona, we talked to a swim instructor, who says that getting started in swim lessons can often be the hardest part for adults. "Most people expect to just jump right in and start swimming and they're going to look great," says instructor Melissa Sutton. "That's not the case at all. The first lesson is often holding their hands and telling them it's okay."

The first step is getting folks comfortable in the water. After that, instructors focus on breath control. Small class sizes are important to teach the very basics.

One safety expert with Banner Health talked about why she learned to swim as an adult. "As a mother, I decided to learn how to swim for my child, so I could save him in case something happened," says Sonja Smith. "I needed to be a good role model for my child."

Today, DPCA is comprised of parents, health and safety professionals, business leaders, and concerned citizens. The group exists to provide a forum for drowning prevention efforts through the promotion of education, legislative action, awareness, and enhanced product safety.

You can learn more online at: www.preventdrownings.org