July 4th offers families across the United States a reason to escape the heat and celebrate with friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, crowded lakes, distracted boaters, inexperienced boat drivers and drinking can all lead to life-threatening boating accidents on Independence weekend. Being aware of your surroundings, understanding boat safety and regulations and taking necessary precautions on the water can help to prevent a tragic boat wreck.
Before heading out on the lake:
- Review your state and federal boating laws.
- Confirm your watercraft has all necessary safety precautions including a life vest for each passenger, a radio to contact authorities, working safety lights and whistles to alert other boaters in an emergency.
- Inform all passengers of safety procedures in case of a boat accident including how to alert authorities and where all safety equipment is located.
- Take a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved boat safety course. (Even the most seasoned boat drivers can use a refresher before hitting the water on crowded weekends.)
- Know if there are any special water safety regulations on a particular lakes due to the Texas Water Safety Act or weather hazards.
As boating accidents become an increasing issue among Texas lakes, consequences of violating boating laws are also becoming more severe. A first time violator may have their license suspended for up to 180 days. Drivers suspected of drinking can have their license automatically suspended if arrested while operating a watercraft with a rating of more than 50 horsepower and refuse a Breathalyzer or blood test to prove sobriety.
In Texas, persons born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 must complete a boater operation course before driving a personal water craft (PWC) or boat with a horsepower more than 15 miles per hour. According to the 2011 Recreational Boating statistics, nearly 90% of boating deaths occurred where the operator had received no boating safety instruction whatsoever and 95% of boating death operators had not taken a NASBLA approved safety course.
If an accident occurs, notify authorities as quickly as possible and immediately work to notify boaters in the surrounding area with whistles, flares and safety lights. By understanding boat safety, wearing life jackets and being prepared, you can help to keep your family and friends safe on the water this holiday.