Local

‘It takes a half a second:’ New Florida bill aims to prevent child drownings with free swim lessons

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local Florida lawmaker is looking for ways to help reduce the number of child drownings -- The leading cause of injury death for toddlers in the state.

>>> STREAM ACTION NEWS JAX LIVE <<<

So far in 2023, 88 children have drowned in Florida.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

74 percent of those deaths were children three years old and younger.

“It takes a half a second to take your eye off a child in some of those areas, like you mentioned ponds, and you’ll never see them again,” said State Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast).

Hutson is hoping to curb instances of child drownings with a newly filed bill that would provide vouchers to low-income families to cover the full cost of swimming lessons for children four years old or younger.

Read: Most Florida bills meant to tighten gun laws not likely to progress despite Lewiston mass shooting

He argued in the past, state officials have focused on requirements like safety equipment around home pools, but those measures often don’t address those most vulnerable to drowning.

In Duval, more than half of child drownings this year involved ponds, not pools.

“Most of the homeowners that have pools, I think they take it a little bit more serious when they have kids around them and a lot of them can afford to do some of these classes. I’ve done these classes with my kids as well, but there’s a population out there that are kind of most needy, don’t really have the water around them to train their children to survive if they fall in and those are the ones we want to focus on,” said Hutson.

Hutson said lessons can run between $100 to $750 for a full course.

Read: Funding on the line under new Florida bill aimed at protecting historic monuments

He’s working on coming up with a dollar figure to fund the program, but is hopeful no matter where that allocation lands, the bill will help save lives.

“I think it’s a good thing to have that sense of wellbeing knowing your child, if they fall in, you can have more than a couple seconds to get to them,” said Hutson.

The bill is still in its early stages.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Action News Jax will keep track of it as it progresses after the 2024 session gets underway in January.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.