Fishing & Boating News

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Boating Safety Reminders for All

by: Kristen Everett,

(Aug. 09, 2004 - Austin, TX) Since the Memorial Day week kick-off of boating season, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens have been out in full force attempting to make Texas waters safer.

There is good news this year though. The number of boating-related fatalities on Texas public waterways has sharply decreased between 2002 and 2003.

In 2002, 61 people died. And last year, 39 did.

The decrease can't be credited or attributed to any one factor and could be due to anything from weather to flooding to safer behaviors.

"Texas is different from many other states in that we have a year-round boating season. We also have more inland water than any of the 48 continental states. We have a coastline and all the activity there as well. We also have one of the highest number of registered boats in the nation. We just have a lot of activity. With all this in mind, we feel like overall, boating is a safe activity in Texas," said Willie Gonzalez, assistant chief of marine enforcement at TPWD.

A reminder: a law that went into effect in 2001 includes the suspension of a driver's license for failing to submit to alcohol testing when suspected of operating a vessel while intoxicated. This applies to watercrafts of 50 horse power or more.

Notable boating regulations include:

  • Children younger than 13 years of age must wear approved life jackets while under way.
  • All personal watercraft passengers, including those being towed, must wear life jackets.
  • All boats must have at least one Type I, II, or III U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket wearable and of the proper size for each person on board.
  • All life jackets must be in good and serviceable condition and readily accessible.
  • Persons younger than age 16 must successfully complete a boater education class (unless exempt) in order to operate boats of 15 horsepower or more and windblown vessels more than 14 feet in length unless accompanied by someone 18 or older.
  • Someone who either appears to be impaired and/or has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher while operating a boat may be arrested for BWI.
  • When operating at greater than headway speed, those on personal watercrafts must remain 50 feet apart from each other, and from other boats as well as shorelines, docks and any fixed objects.

Game wardens will be conducting media ride-alongs all summer. For more information, contact your local game warden office. Also, TPWD boater education courses are available in a traditional classroom setting, on line and through a home video course. Call (800) 792-1112.

TPWD is now compiling data for 2004 and will release it in the coming weeks.