One of the first statistics I found via Google is that there are about 10 children dying of drowning each year in Phoenix. Let's say half of them are under the age of five. And then say half of those were due to bathtub unattendance. (Which is conservative - again, most drowning occurs in pools.) Bringing us to around 3 a year.
There's 1.3 million people in Phoenix. So we could roughly say that there's 800K under-fives.
The question - how many of these under-fives are left unattended in the bath?
If we say that there are 1 in 100 children with "bad" parents in Phoenix, that's 8000 kids who bathe unattended, 3 of whom die each year. So...if you decide to be a "bad" parent this year and let your child bathe unattended regularly, that's a...1 in 2400 chance of losing your child. Per year of unattended bathing. Which is very rare...although I still wouldn't want to roll those dice there are probably bigger dangers which we can either do nothing about and/or are unconscious of.
But definitely a green light on leaving historically cautious and smart three or four year olds unattended for a minute or two, I figure. But, just to cover my ass, if you follow this advice I am in no way responsible for your dead kid.
This blog post was the first hit when I searched for "watch kids in the bath" - before the various pages on drowning statistics, one of which advises that you shouldn't leave kids alone in the bath before the age of five. My own three-and- a-half-year old daughter seems like she should be perfectly safe in the bath: we've never seen her even attempt to dunk her head underwater, never seen her slip and fall in the tub. And she loves to take long baths, and she doesn't get to take as many as she likes, because neither of us like to be stuck in the bathroom with her for what can take up to an hour. (And we will leave her unattended for minutes at a time while we get towels, look for a book to read, etc. Hope nobody calls social services.)
So I'm of very mixed feelings about the whole thing.
On the one hand - drowning is leading cause of death after car accidents (and things you can't do anything about like cancer). It's a bigger killer than SIDS, poisoning, various illnesses.
On the other hand, 5 out of 6 cases are drowning in swimming pools. (Random side note - *Freakonomics* tells us that owning a swimming pool is more dangerous than owning a handgun.) So maybe bathtub drowning isn't that high on the list.
And, those websites that advise stringent risk-advoidance - they kind of have to be safety nazis, because if someone's four year old drowns they'll get sued.
And random news articles about infant drowning deaths are meaningless - purely anecdotal - no more meaningful than news articles about death by lightning strike.
On the other other hand, this is death, here. Even if the chances are 1 in 10,000 per bath would you want to roll those dice every time?