AUSTIN (KYTX)—Since May 9, at least twelve people have lost their lives on Texas waters in boating or swimming accidents worked by Texas Game Wardens, an unusually high number of fatalities before the Memorial Day weekend.
With the big weekend approaching, Texans are heading to lakes, rivers and coastlines to enjoy the water. Game wardens and boater education experts are doing everything they can to make it a safe boating season, but could use a little help.
Last year in Texas, 146 accidents were reported by the U.S. Coast Guard, 31 of which ended with deaths. Statistics show many of these tragedies could have been prevented. Nearly 85 percent of boating accident victims were not wearing life jackets.
"The numbers speak for themselves," said Cody Jones, TPWD Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement. "Wearing a life jacket increases your chances of surviving on the water and can prevent your trip from turning into a tragedy."
State law requires that a personal floatation device is available for each occupant of the boat, but only children under 13 years of age are mandated by the law to wear one while the boat or paddle craft is underway or drifting.
Despite this law, last year in Texas, more than 700 citations were issued for children not wearing a life jacket.
It is mandatory for anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 to obtain a boater's education certificate before they can legally operate a vessel with a rating of more than 15 horsepower. Anyone supervising the operation of a vessel by another must be 18 years of age or older and exempt from the boater education requirement (born before 1993) or have a boater education certificate.
In 2013, 208 citations were issued in Texas to boaters who were intoxicated. And five of the state's boating deaths in 2013 were alcohol-related, highlighting the importance of not drinking while operating a boat.
"If you want to drink before heading out on the water, remember to be responsible and assign a designated driver," said Jones. "Wardens will be patrolling the waters and anyone found operating a boat while intoxicated will face possible arrest and time in jail."
For information about boater education courses, visit: http://www.tpwd.texas.gov/learning/boater_education/internet_courses.phtml
Boaters with the online course certificate may receive a discounted rate from their boating insurance provider.