AUSTIN – With Texas game wardens continuing to assist the recovery efforts in Harvey affected areas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging extra vigilance from boaters and recreational water users in other areas of the state heading into Labor Day weekend.
“Much of Texas has experienced heavy rains that caused flooding, debris and increased water flows along many lakes, rivers and creeks,” said Cody Jones, TPWD Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement. “All boaters – including those who engage in rescues – should take precautions to keep themselves and their family safe by wearing lifejackets and following other boating safety recommendations this Labor Day weekend.”
So far this year, 31 people have died in Texas public waters, an increase from 29 in 2016. Boating accidents have also increased from 146 last year to more than 150 this year. Many of these incidents could have been prevented by following important safety precautions while on the water, like wearing a lifejacket, checking the weather before entering the water, using a safety ignition kill switch and knowing the rules of the waterway by taking a boater education class.
Another main concern during holiday weekends is Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) – or operating a vessel with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 percent – which doubles the risk of being killed in a boating accident. So far in 2017, Texas game wardens have arrested 125 people statewide for BWI. BWI is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible Driver’s License suspension.
Basic boating safety precautions like avoiding alcohol and wearing a lifejacket also extend to paddlecraft. As participation grows in kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding; accidents, fatalities and injuries involving them are growing as well. In 2016, Texas had 11 paddle craft fatalities, making up 31.4 percent of all boating fatalities for the year.
Paddlers can find a free online safety course on the TPWD website, and for larger vessels, anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must complete a boater education course to operate a personal watercraft or a boat with a 15 horsepower rating or more. Boater education courses are regularly offered in many locations around the state, or boaters can find a selection of online boater courses that can be taken anytime.