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TPWD News,, 512-389-8030

June 29, 2010

TPWD Urges Boaters to Be Safe this Holiday Weekend

Incoming hurricane might also affect weekend weather

This July 4 weekend friends and family will haul their boats into the water and celebrate, but someone else might crash the party – Alex.

Hurricane Alex is expected to make landfall on Thursday in northern Mexico or South Texas and bring with it rain that could lead to inland flooding during the weekend. With that in mind, in addition to the usual safety tips outlined below it is important to watch the weather reports and plan holiday get-togethers on the boat accordingly.

Jeff Parrish, TPWD assistant chief boating law administrator, said that while lakes surrounded by urban development are usually unaffected by inclement weather along the coast, anyone who plans to celebrate near the Texas coast this weekend should monitor the forecast and prepare for the weather.

"Just like pilots develop a flight plan, you should develop a float plan," Parrish said. "Let people know where you’re going and how long you plan to be out so if you don’t come back by a certain time, they know to start looking for you."

In addition to monitoring the forecast, boaters are urged to take the usual precautions when spending time on the water this July 4 weekend, including wearing a personal flotation device and not operating a boat while drinking alcohol.

Boat operators must have at least one lifejacket per passenger on board, and children younger than 13 are required to wear lifejackets while on the water. TPWD reports that 90 percent of boating fatality victims who are recovered had not been wearing lifejackets and that wearing a lifejacket increases your chances tenfold of surviving in the water.

In 2009, TPWD reported 211 boating accidents and 35 boating-related fatalities as well as 219 incidents of BWI (boating while intoxicated). So far this year, 72 boating accidents and 15 boating-related fatalities have been reported as well as 75 incidents of BWI.

Parrish said alcohol consumption is a leading contributor to boating accidents and that not only boating operators but also passengers, skiers, tubers and swimmers should drink responsibly. Someone in the group should also be selected as a designated boat operator.

"Falling or jumping overboard while vessels are underway or at anchor is a common occurrence in recreational boating," Parrish said. "Consuming alcohol coupled with not wearing a lifejacket is a recipe for disaster."

Parrish said in the event of an accident on the water, boaters should call 911 for help.

Additionally, anyone younger than 18 who was born after Aug. 31, 1984, is required by law to pass a boater education course before being allowed to operate a boat. Along with photo identification, boaters who are required to take the course must also carry their completion certificate on board their vessel.

People who are exempt from the boater education course include anyone 18 and older, minors who are accompanied by an adult who is exempt from the course and anyone who holds a master’s, mate’s or operator’s license issues by the U.S. Coast Guard. Nonetheless, TPWD research indicates that those who have taken the course are far less likely to be in a boating accident.

The boater education course costs about $13 and is about six hours long. Boaters can take the course in person or through online and at-home formats.

For boating safety tips or more information on the boater education course, visit the TPWD Boating Safety Web Page or call 800-792-1112, option 2

Boaters are also asked to avoid unintentionally transporting invasive species, such as aquatic plants like giant salvinia or organisms like zebra mussels that can "hitch a ride" on boats or trailers moved from lake to lake. See the Web site for tips to identify, report and avoid transporting invasive plants and animals.

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