AUSTIN— In the first eight months of 2016, 88 people died on Texas rivers and lakes due to drowning, trauma and other causes. Many of these tragedies can be avoided, which is why Texas game wardens are asking boaters, anglers and swimmers to make a promise to friends and family during the Labor Day holiday weekend to stay safe out on the water and follow these basic guidelines:
Water and alcohol are a deadly combination – Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated for everyone involved. The effects of alcohol while out on the water can intensify and alcohol was a contributing factor among nearly one out of every four boating accident-related fatalities this year. So far in 2016, Texas game wardens have arrested 143 people statewide for BWI.
Wear a life jacket at all times – Regardless the type of watercraft, from a kayak to a pleasure boat, a life jacket saves lives but only if you wear one. Children younger than 13 are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while underway and it’s a good idea for everyone onboard to keep them on at all times.
Designate a responsible observer – Water depths and currents out on the lakes and rivers are unpredictable and it only takes a second for a fun family outing to turn to tragedy. Select an active observer whose job it is to keep watch over those in the water, particularly youngsters, and provide them with a whistle or other noisemaker to signal distress. If you can’t swim, learn. Of the 62 victims of open water drownings in Texas this year, nine were under the age of 18.
Boat safe, boat smart – Check the weather before you launch, conditions out on the water can change rapidly, and know the lake. Always use a safety ignition kill switch and ensure that all the required boating safety equipment is onboard. Know the rules of the waterway by taking boater education.
More information about boating and water safety is available online at https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/safety/.
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