Initiative against child accidents.

The battle against drowning accidents

KFV helps over 200 children in Austria to learn how to swim! Perfectly prepared, over 200 children from Austria are starting out into the swimming season because thanks to a swimming course with Helmi they can now enjoy cooling off safely. As part of the "VISION ZERO 2020 - Child accidents are preventable" initiative by the KFV (Austrian Road Safety Board), safety expert Helmi toured the Austrian provinces in the summer months, teaching children between the ages of five and 15 how to swim.

Vienna, 5. September 2015

No matter their age, children love water and especially on hot summer days, many water bugs large and small are found at swimming pools and lakes. But swimming is not only fun and healthy, it is also a skill that has to be learnt and it is particularly important for one's safety. For this reason, the popular kids' character Helmi cooperated with trainers from the Steiner swimming school to teach around 100 children in Vienna how to swim. The first step of the course was to grow accustomed to the water in a playful manner before the correct breast and backstroke motions were taught in the second step. Jumping from the edge of the pool as well as diving and balance exercises were also part of the swimming course and were met with particular popularity among the young participants.

"Being able to swim can be of vital importance. Children can't be accustomed to water early enough, but targeted lessons are only possible from the age of around four or five. The sooner children learn to swim, the easier it is for them to learn and the more naturally they are able to deal with the element of water," explains Dr. Othmar Thann, Director of KFV.

Rule number one: Always keep an eye on children

The KFV statistics show how important it is that children learn to swim at a young age: On average, five children under the age of 15 drown each year in Austria - of which four children are under the age of five. Drowning is therefore one of the most common types of a fatal accident among toddlers under the age of five - second only to road accidents. Drowning accidents involving toddlers often happen at home in the garden or in the immediate vicinity of the home. "Many children are unsupervised, playing games at the pool or the pond and they fall into the water. A minute of inattention can be enough to lead to catastrophe, as toddlers can drown even in water only a few centimetres deep. In a panic situation, they are unable to pull their head out of the water by themselves, they go numb and finally drown without a sound. Even if such an accident doesn't end in death, the danger of lasting brain damage due to interrupted oxygen supply is very high," says Thann. 


Even when children already know how to swim, it is of vital importance that they are never unsupervised near bodies of water. Especially for toddlers, the following is important: If the supervising adult is not within reach, i.e. one to a maximum of three steps away, there is little - sometimes insufficient - time for rescue or preventing grave consequences.

VISION ZERO 2020

The „Helmi teaches children to swim“ campaign is part of the „Vision Zero 2020“ initiative founded last year by the KFV. No child killed in Austria by 2020 - this is the ambitous objective of the initiative. In accordance with the motto "Full attention - Zero accidents!" targeted information and exciting campaigns are to increase awareness for protecting our little ones and child accidents are to be prevented through practical prevention measures.