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July 3, 2008
Caution Urged on Lakes and Bays During Busy Holiday Weekend
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are urging boaters to take extra care as thousands take to the state’s lakes and bays over the busy Independence Day holiday weekend.
"Typically, we see more accidents on the three big summer holidays — Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day weekends," said Maj. Alfonso Campos, chief of marine safety enforcement for TPWD. "There are more people on the water and it’s usually a party atmosphere. For some folks, these long weekends are the only time they go out all year."
As of July 3, there have been 95 boating accidents, 51 serious injuries and 23 fatalities on Texas waters so far this year. That compares favorably with the same period of 2007, when there were 119 accidents, 73 injuries and 30 fatalities. Last year marked a four-year high in Texas boating fatalities, with 52, even though nationwide the number of fatalities dropped.
Boating safety advocates hope to see the downward trend in Texas this year continue.
"There are two things people can do that will really improve their chances of coming home safe," said Aaron Reed, a TPWD spokesman and boating education instructor. "First, designate a driver for the boat and for a safe ride home. It’s neither safe nor socially acceptable to drive drunk in a car or a truck, and the same holds true for boats. Second, wear a lifejacket. The new inflatable lifejackets, including the belt packs, are comfortable and effective."
Alcohol is believed to be a factor in about one-third of all boating fatalities in Texas. Of victims who drowned in boating accidents nationwide, approximately 85 percent were not wearing lifejackets. Penalties for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) are similar to those for Driving While Intoxicated and can include suspension of the boat operator’s automobile driver’s license.
TPWD game wardens will be out in force on state waters over the holiday weekend. TPWD’s "Nobody’s Waterproof" water safety outreach team also will be on the water Saturday, July 5, at Lake Conroe.
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