Are You Ready for Swimming Pool Season?

In Chapter 5 of Freakonomics, which explores the art and science of parenting, we pose this question: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? It turns out that far more children die each year in swimming pool accidents than in gun incidents. For parents in warm-weather states like Florida, California, and Arizona, this is plainly a year-round concern, and now that summer seems to have leapt over spring (at least here in New York City, where it hit 80 F. yesterday), swimming-pool season is nearly here for all of us.

That’s why I thought it was worthwhile to pass along this e-mail from Bob Lyons of Ottawa, who in 1998 invented a “personal immersion alarm” called the Safety Turtle. (Too bad this guy came along too soon for American Inventor; they really could have used him.) As Lyons writes:

Many mothers [and grandparents and pet owners] were positive; while men were often dismissive. Yet, astonishingly, actions said: “great invention for other people,” but for us, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”! I wonder how the inventor of the car seat belt did?

Fortunately, Safety Turtle technology was adopted in workplaces and in boating. And finally pool owners are buying it in large numbers. It’s saving lives as intended, as a last layer of protection — not, to quote a dismissive pool & spa industry leader in 2001, as an “electronic baby sitter.”

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? is pretty compelling. Thank you for helping expose the anomaly that has been so tragic for so many families.

Hey Bob: maybe you’ll consider giving me and Levitt your Safety Turtle sales data so we can back and see if the areas that buy more of your Safety Turtles end up suffering less pool accidents and injuries?


robert

The question in the book about which is more dangerous.. swimming pools or guns... is complete rubbish. Children are not given the same access to guns are they are to swimming pools! Are you saying that if children were allowed play near and with guns to the same level they play near and with swimming pool there would be less deaths from guns? Jeepers. And when I say "dont have access" thats as simple as your dad saying "touch that gun and ill whup your ass".. or the young persons common sense which is normally enough.

Great book though... we need more of that McLuhan style thinking.

Hey what do you think of this idea... the the fall in crime is also related to the mass adoption of TV and absorbtion of moral themes from sitcoms, cartoons... even comics. The mediums for the mojority portray corruption/crime as out of place rather than common place which may have forced reality to get in a line a litte. over

Read more...

Jamie

By this logic a peanut butter sandwich is more dangerous than a nuclear bomb, because more children die from peanut allergies each year than from nuclear bombs explosions.

The guns vs. swimming pools argument is a false comparison that does not take into account the fact that far more children have encounters each year with swimming pools than they do with guns.

Steven

In the same vein as the "driving vs. flying" example, it would be vastly more appropriate to inquire about the *per-hour* death rate of swimming pools vs. guns.

willie

driving v. flying is a per mile argument, not per hour. And to properly argue, add up all the hours that a child is unsupervised in the pool and all the hours they are unsupervised with loaded guns.

But regardless, by buying an inground pool, you are giving your child all that exposure to a deadly thing. Why does per hour work into the equation? One pool equals lots of death chances, one gun is very few. Obviously the deaths per hour of use number is way lower for pools, but you need to compare lifetime chances of death by that danger, not per hour of use.

joshua

It's a perfectly good comparison, it sounds like the commenters just don't like it. It is a useful comparison since you can for example, conclude that while guns are a risk, more lives can be saved by improving safety around pools.

I've noticed a trend in research where people's reaction to the conclusions are based on their own personal beliefs. Maybe I like guns more than pools.

Ytse Wolf

To answer which is more dangerous, you need to look at statistics like the ratio of pool-related child injuries per household with a pool to gun-related child injuries per household with a gun. There may be lots more households with pools than guns, in which case you would expect more pool injuries than gun injuries. Without that kind of data, you can't effectively argue that one is statistically more dangerous than the other. It comes down to this: If you want your kids to be safer, educate them and keep an eye on them!

Thominator

Some of the previous do not appear to have read the Freakonomics chapter referred to in the article. I believe the premise examined by the Leavitt and Dubner was "Which household is more likely to experience a child fatality - one with guns or one with a pool?" Clearly there are more guns than home swimming pools in the US, but on per household basis they found pools to be more dangerous by an order of magnitude. The best topics in their book were the ones which incited both the left and the right. That's an indicator that we're not seeing the big picture because of our biases.

Or as we say in the office, "Structural failures don't kill people, structural engineers kill people."

Eric Lupton

Thominator nailed it on the head.

Without additional study, we can only speculate as to why a home with a pool may be more likely to experience a child fatality than one with a gun.

Off the top of my headed, several reasons jump to mind.

1. Guns can be locked in a drawer, cabinet, safe, etc., inaccessible and out of sight. You can't hide a pool. It's always there. It's always in view. The water is a constantly fascinating temptation. Throw a colorful floating pool toy in the mix and you have a trap few toddlers could resist.

2. Everything has to go wrong for a gun to fatally wound a child (by accident). The gun must be left out, it has no gun lock equipped, it's loaded, the child picks it up, and she squeezes the trigger. Even then, she must aim the gun at herself, and not a wall, to cause a fatality. A fatality in a pool has far less variables: she gets outside, there's no barrier, she enters the pool, and she drowns. Firing the gun has an uncertain outcome. Entering the pool does not.

3. Pools are more difficult to secure against small children. As mentioned before, if a gun is put away in a safe place, it's essentially safe from children. A simple gun lock provides even more security. Pools are more difficult. Pool safety devices -- barriers, alarms, etc. -- are more expensive than a locked drawer/gun lock. The installation of a pool fence is a bigger decision. The consistent use of a personal immersion alarm is more taxing. This is why multiple layers of security are recommended for swimming pools. All must fail to experience a fatality.

4. The media is huge on gun safety, and rightfully so. Any child fatality is tragic. Pool safety gets less coverage.

Everyone knows that guns are dangerous and should be kept away from children. Less people see their backyard swimming pool, a place for fun and relaxation, to be equally as dangerous if misused.

Read more...

robert

The question in the book about which is more dangerous.. swimming pools or guns... is complete rubbish. Children are not given the same access to guns are they are to swimming pools! Are you saying that if children were allowed play near and with guns to the same level they play near and with swimming pool there would be less deaths from guns? Jeepers. And when I say "dont have access" thats as simple as your dad saying "touch that gun and ill whup your ass".. or the young persons common sense which is normally enough.

Great book though... we need more of that McLuhan style thinking.

Hey what do you think of this idea... the the fall in crime is also related to the mass adoption of TV and absorbtion of moral themes from sitcoms, cartoons... even comics. The mediums for the mojority portray corruption/crime as out of place rather than common place which may have forced reality to get in a line a litte. over

Read more...

Jamie

By this logic a peanut butter sandwich is more dangerous than a nuclear bomb, because more children die from peanut allergies each year than from nuclear bombs explosions.

The guns vs. swimming pools argument is a false comparison that does not take into account the fact that far more children have encounters each year with swimming pools than they do with guns.

Steven

In the same vein as the "driving vs. flying" example, it would be vastly more appropriate to inquire about the *per-hour* death rate of swimming pools vs. guns.

joshua

It's a perfectly good comparison, it sounds like the commenters just don't like it. It is a useful comparison since you can for example, conclude that while guns are a risk, more lives can be saved by improving safety around pools.

I've noticed a trend in research where people's reaction to the conclusions are based on their own personal beliefs. Maybe I like guns more than pools.

Marc

Did you even bother to read the book or let alone understand the statistical data? This is what the data showed:

“In 1997 742 children under the age of 10 drowned; 550 of those drownings -- about 75 percent of the total -- occurred in residential swimming pools. According to the most recent statistics, there are about six million residential pools, meaning that one young child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools.

About 175 children under the age of 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 one million guns.

Thus, on average, if you both own a gun and have a swimming pool in the backyard, the swimming pool is about 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is.”

So all you people saying is rubbish or not true; should first get a degree in statistics or at least some basic skills in reading and mathematics. Then you can state your expert opinion.

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michael

The number of US kids and teens who die from gunshot wounds in hospital has risen almost 60 percent in a decade, according to a new report.

The study by two doctors looked at data from 1997 to 2009, and found the number of those hospitalized with gunshot wounds rose from 4,270 to 7,730, while the number of those that then died from them climbed from 317 to 503.
- An annual average of 390 pool or spa-related drownings for children younger than 15 occurred from 2007 to 2009; about 75 percent (293) of the reported fatalities involved children younger than five.

Ytse Wolf

To answer which is more dangerous, you need to look at statistics like the ratio of pool-related child injuries per household with a pool to gun-related child injuries per household with a gun. There may be lots more households with pools than guns, in which case you would expect more pool injuries than gun injuries. Without that kind of data, you can't effectively argue that one is statistically more dangerous than the other. It comes down to this: If you want your kids to be safer, educate them and keep an eye on them!

willie

about half of adults in the US live in households with guns. there are more guns than people in the US. Even if only 20% of people live in gun households, do you think 20 % of households have pools? I dont know. But guns are WAY more pervasive than most people think.

Thominator

Some of the previous do not appear to have read the Freakonomics chapter referred to in the article. I believe the premise examined by the Leavitt and Dubner was "Which household is more likely to experience a child fatality - one with guns or one with a pool?" Clearly there are more guns than home swimming pools in the US, but on per household basis they found pools to be more dangerous by an order of magnitude. The best topics in their book were the ones which incited both the left and the right. That's an indicator that we're not seeing the big picture because of our biases.

Or as we say in the office, "Structural failures don't kill people, structural engineers kill people."

Eric Lupton

Thominator nailed it on the head.

Without additional study, we can only speculate as to why a home with a pool may be more likely to experience a child fatality than one with a gun.

Off the top of my headed, several reasons jump to mind.

1. Guns can be locked in a drawer, cabinet, safe, etc., inaccessible and out of sight. You can't hide a pool. It's always there. It's always in view. The water is a constantly fascinating temptation. Throw a colorful floating pool toy in the mix and you have a trap few toddlers could resist.

2. Everything has to go wrong for a gun to fatally wound a child (by accident). The gun must be left out, it has no gun lock equipped, it's loaded, the child picks it up, and she squeezes the trigger. Even then, she must aim the gun at herself, and not a wall, to cause a fatality. A fatality in a pool has far less variables: she gets outside, there's no barrier, she enters the pool, and she drowns. Firing the gun has an uncertain outcome. Entering the pool does not.

3. Pools are more difficult to secure against small children. As mentioned before, if a gun is put away in a safe place, it's essentially safe from children. A simple gun lock provides even more security. Pools are more difficult. Pool safety devices -- barriers, alarms, etc. -- are more expensive than a locked drawer/gun lock. The installation of a pool fence is a bigger decision. The consistent use of a personal immersion alarm is more taxing. This is why multiple layers of security are recommended for swimming pools. All must fail to experience a fatality.

4. The media is huge on gun safety, and rightfully so. Any child fatality is tragic. Pool safety gets less coverage.

Everyone knows that guns are dangerous and should be kept away from children. Less people see their backyard swimming pool, a place for fun and relaxation, to be equally as dangerous if misused.

Read more...

Robert Ryden

In the book, the introduction to this topic posed the question, " where is my child safer, a friend's home with a gun or one with a pool?" Something not mentioned was the age of the child. It is, I believe, mostly toddlers who drown in pools, while older children tend to be the ones accidentally shot by their friend playing with a gun. So a more specific question might be, "where is my 10-year-old safer?" I suspect it may be at the house with a pool, but I would like to know if there is any data that supports (or refutes) that.