Red Cross: More than half of Americans can't swim

TEMPLE, TEXAS (KCEN) - According to a report released by the American Red Cross, more than half of Americans cannot swim or complete the five basic skills of swimming.

In their survey 80% of the people said they thought they were good swimmers, but when it came to the test: many failed. In fact, only 56% could perform the basic skills that include jumping or stepping into water over their heads, resurfacing and treading or floating for one minute, making a complete circle to locate the exit, swim at least 25 yards to the exit, and then pulling yourself out of the pool without the ladder.

In addition to that the survey says four out of ten children could do these basic skills, but 90% plan on getting into water at some point this summer.

"That's a scary statistic," City of Temple Aquatics Coordinator Keith Dawson said. "But we see it every year, kids jump in and can't swim. They're in over their heads because they want to swim with friends or family members who are in the deeper water."

Dawson and many other city aquatic departments are getting ready to open their public pools starting this Memorial Day weekend. After seeing the Red Cross report - he hopes more parents will pay attention to just how dangerous swimming can be. "The leading cause of accidental deaths in children under the age of five is drowning," he said. "Safety has to be your number one concern, and you always have to know where your children are at with their swimming abilities."

To keep your kids safe, Dawson says they should always swim with a friend, know what their limits are and why it's dangerous to go beyond their abilities, and if they're not good swimmers to have life jackets on. "We've even had to go in to rescue adults who get in the water and realize they've been out for several years and they're just not as proficient as they thought they were," Dawson said.

And it's always a good idea to enroll your children into swimming lessons. If you can't afford lessons, Red Cross has put out a free smart phone swim app. The app will teach you step by step basic and advanced swimming techniques through videos. It also allows you to track your child's swimming skill progress, as well as give tips swimming safety.

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