Texas Parks and Wildlife Department boater education and law enforcement staff are reminding Texans to be safe this Memorial Day weekend and all summer long by following the law and taking basic safety precautions while on the water.
In 2017, 45 boating fatalities occurred on Texas waters, an increase of more than 28 percent from 2016. Also, marine enforcement officers logged 172 boating accidents and 83 boating-related injuries. While boating fatalities and accidents can be caused by a variety of circumstances, surviving an accident on the water boils down to wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device.
"Wearing a life jacket is the most important strategy boaters can take to stay safe on the water," said Tim Spice, TPWD Boater Education Manager. "The overwhelming majority of boating fatalities are caused by drowning, and most of those drowning victims are recovered without a life jacket."
"It's not enough to just have a life jacket on board—people need to wear it," Spice added. "Accidents on the water can happen too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket."
State law requires that a life jacket must be available for each occupant of the boat, and children younger than 13 are required to wear one while the boat or paddle craft is moving. Despite these laws, in Texas last year the number of citations issued for children not wearing a life jacket increased by nearly 12 percent.
"Texas game wardens regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure boat operators and passengers are following the law," said Cody Jones, TPWD assistant commander for marine enforcement. "Everyone who will be operating a boat, personal water craft or paddle craft this summer should make sure they are in compliance with all vessel safety requirements before hitting the water."
Law enforcement will also be on alert for those violating boating-under-the-influence laws. Operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 percent is an offense that can lead to fines, the loss of a driver's license and an increased risk of accidents or fatalities on the water. In 2017, game wardens issued 152 boating-under-the-influence or boating-while-intoxicated citations across the state.
Other boating safety tips to keep in mind include: