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TPWD News Release — May 22, 2006
AUSTIN, Texas — National Safe Boating Week kicked-off May 19 with a mixed message from the previous year. Overall, boating accidents, injuries and fatalities continued to decrease; however, with about half of the accidents involving alcohol and 85 percent of boating fatalities recovered not wearing life jackets, many of the incidents were preventable.
There are approximately 620,000 registered boats in Texas, ranking it fifth in the country. In 2005, there were 204 reported boating accidents, 100 injuries and 30 fatalities. That’s down from 258 accidents, 222 injuries and 69 fatalities in 1997.
“While the numbers look like an improvement, that's still 30 lives that were lost, and many of those could have been saved by simply wearing a life jacket and operating responsibly. ” said Maj. Alfonso Campos, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Chief of Marine Enforcement.
Many boaters who reflexively latch their seatbelts and wouldn’t think of driving drunk in their cars or trucks apply a different set of standards on the water, Campos said.
“When you’re in a boat, that life jacket or personal flotation device can save your life just like your seat belt,” he said. “And operating a motorboat or personal watercraft under the influence of alcohol is just as dangerous as — or even more dangerous than — driving your car drunk. We want people to have a good time on the water, but wear the life jacket and operate responsibly.”
The Boating While Intoxicated law is strictly enforced by TPWD game wardens and other law enforcement agencies. A person arrested for BWI may be jailed for up to 180 days, be fined as much as $2,000 or both. A law that took effect in 2001 includes possible suspension of an automobile driver’s license for failing to submit to alcohol testing when suspected of operating a vessel while intoxicated.
The blood-alcohol level for legal intoxication while boating is .08 percent, the same as for drivers on land.
“It’s that time of year when the lakes will be extremely busy and we want people to enjoy the Texas lakes,” Campos said. “But it can also be dangerous. Prepare yourself, and use some common sense so you don't become a statistic. That’s all we’re asking.”
Editors: 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, online and through a home video course. Call (800) 792-1112 for more details.
Any other questions can be directed to (512) 389-4627.
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