National Safe Boating Week Highlights Importance of Boating and Water Safety

AUSTIN, May 19, 2015 - Safe Boating Week runs May 16-22 nationally and in Texas as proclaimed by Gov. Greg Abbott and partners across the country are advocating safe and responsible boating as Texans head to the water this weekend.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who is responsible for promoting and enforcing recreational water safety standards, is reminding boaters to always wear a life jacket, use an ignition safety switch, learn to swim, and take a boater education course. Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 must complete a boater education course to operate a personal watercraft or a boat with a horsepower rating of more than 15 hp. The American Red Cross offers swimming lessons by certified instructors across the state http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/program-highlights/swimming.

In addition, Texas game wardens will be out in force this holiday weekend to help spread awareness for boating safety, and make sure that the public is enjoying their Memorial Day responsibly.

“The high number of fatalities last year is a stark reminder of how a weekend can take a turn towards tragedy in the blink of an eye,” said Col. Craig Hunter, director of the law enforcement division for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “A day on the water in Texas should be all about the fun and following the basic rules of boating safety can help keep your loved ones from harm.”

Texas has more square miles of inland waterways than any other state and the sixth most registered boats in the nation with more than 580,000. Last year, Texas game wardens issued 1,585 citations during the Memorial Day weekend and a third of those tickets were for boating safety related violations, including failure to wear a life jacket, boating while intoxicated, and boater education violations.

“Many, if not all, of these violations could be avoided if folks would simply obey the law,” Hunter stressed, “Just as you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle intoxicated, not having buckled your seatbelt and with no driver’s license, don’t make bad decisions when heading out onto the water.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2013, and that 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Reports show that 70-percent of people who drowned would be alive today, if they had worn a life jacket,” said Tim Spice, TPWD Boater Education Manager. “There are inflatables available that are comfortable and lightweight. There’s no excuse for not wearing one.””

In addition to the basic boater safety tips, boaters are advised to take precautions when operating boats designed for shallow water access.

U.S. Coast Guard research has found that certain “flats” boats designed for shallow water access have a tendency to swap ends during hard turns when operated at speeds of 25 MPH or greater and could potentially eject riders seated in the bow area. It is recommended that boats operating at speeds of 25 MPH or greater should have their jack plate in a downward position. Passengers are advised to sit in areas behind the console, where hand holds are more accessible.

For information on taking a boater’s education course, visit: http://tpwd.texas.gov/education/boater-education/

Safety requirements for operating a boat can be found at: http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/laws/pwc/

Video is also available online at the water safety page, including “Never Happens,” the true stories of water tragedies told by teen witnesses and survivors, and “Beautiful but Gone,” which tells the story of boating and swimming-related accidents from the parents of teens featured in “Never Happens.”

For information about Texas boating laws and requirements, visit: http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/pwd_br_l2000_0001/

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