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Game Wardens say safe boating’s all about education
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens working with other law enforcement agencies will be concentrating their efforts on enforcing boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws this summer, but they’d just as soon see boaters go to school than jail.
“In real estate the old saying is ‘Location, Location, Location,” said Asst. Chief Jeffery Parrish, TPWD’s boating law administrator. “In safe boating the saying should be ‘Education, Education, Education.’”
Unfortunately, he said, many boaters don’t realize that BWI carries the same penalty as driving while intoxicated. When it comes to alcohol, the only difference between a boat and an automobile is that open alcoholic beverage containers on board a vessel are still legal in Texas.
“But that’s where the difference stops,” Parrish said. “All other Texas laws relating to alcohol and the operation of a vehicle or a boat are identical.”
He said Texas law enforcement officers, prosecutors, educators, and various other agencies and organizations will be using news media events, personal contacts, posters, public service announcements, Facebook and other social media to get the safe boating message out this summer.
Last year game wardens arrested 316 persons in Texas for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol. TPWD also reported 10 boating-related water fatalities that were alcohol related.
Game wardens offer these tips to avoid a ride from the lake to jail this summer:
- Always have a designated driver.
- Minimize your consumption of alcohol.
- Take a boater education course.
- File a float plan – let folks where you will be and what time you expect to be home.
- Wear your personal floatation device (PFD).
- If you observe an intoxicated boat or water craft operator, notify your local law enforcement agency.
“The last thing an officer wants to do is spend an entire afternoon taking someone to the county jail for BWI,” Parrish said. “Booking someone takes them away from the place where their time and resources can best be utilized, which is out on the water helping people. But if they find someone who’s boating while intoxicated, they will be going to jail.”
Boater education covers legal requirements for boating, safe handling and practical tips such as reading weather signs. Boating courses are available three ways: online, a home study course or in-person courses taught by certified volunteer instructors, game wardens, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and US Power Squadron. Find course information at http://tpwd.texas.gov/learning/boater_education/.
On the Net:
- Texas Parks and Wildlife — Boat Texas on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Parks-and-Wildlife-Boat-Texas/198609803510460
- Video in English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFTXMbY0MQM
- Video in Spanish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6RYJ-4bbJ0
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