Advocates have their eye on a bill in the New Jersey state legislature that would require water-safety education in schools statewide.

Assembly Bill 269 would require all schools to provide water-safety education from Kindergarten through the 12th grade. It would do so by adding this stipulation to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and

Physical Education. In its current form, the bi-partisan-supported bill provides some broad requirements for the curriculum. It would have to cover proper use of flotation devices, how to become aware of water conditions, the danger of rip currents and how to respond if caught in one, and the importance of swimming in areas monitored by a lifeguard. Otherwise, the language gives school districts the responsibility and ability to determine the exact content of the curriculum. It would take effect immediately upon passage.

"Drownings are the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control," the bill states. "While New Jersey students participate in drills for fire and active shooter crises, they do not receive instruction on what to do if you are drowning or see someone drowning."

The bill was introduced earlier this year and assigned to the Assembly Education Committee. It was largely initiated by Joe Oheme, a board member of Stop Drowning Now and president of New Jersey Swim Schools, after several local drownings occurred in a short period of time. A similar bill was introduced late in the previous legislative session, but it didn't have time to gain much traction.

While A269 would only affect one state, water safety advocates back the bill, believing children should continue to learn about safe water practices through their teens.

"To me, one of the most important things we are seeing, from the drowning data, is that more and more teenagers are not drowning so much in the pool but in open bodies of water," said Adam Katchmarchi, executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. "They’re over-estimating their abilities. So, yes, we’re getting the word out to young children, but we need to continue reaching older kids."

Further, these group believe the passage of such a law could have national ramifications, providing a template for similar legislation in other states. "From a national perspective, if this could be implemented in ... New Jersey, we can get this implemented around the country," Katchmarchi said.