AUSTIN – The slips and boat ramps of Texas are abuzz with activity this Fourth of July weekend. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reminds boaters to follow basic safety precautions while on the water.
Game wardens will join the United States Coast Guard and thousands of law enforcement officers on heightened alert for violations as part of Operation Dry Water, a nationally coordinated enforcement campaign focused on deterring boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“If you’re operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you’re putting people at risk,” said Cody Jones, TPWD Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement. “Sadly, we see it time and time again – holiday celebrations that end in accidents or fatalities caused by unsafe boating practices.”
Last year, wardens arrested 42 for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) over the Fourth of July weekend and filed eight other charges for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). They issued 1,474 citations and 1,797 warnings for various boating safety law violations.
“Texas Game Wardens will be out in force to help boaters return to land safely,” Jones said. “But help us do our job by being prepared and making wise choices.”
Statewide, injuries and fatalities peak between the months of May and August, especially on weekends. Among the top contributors: operator inattention, careless/reckless operation, inexperience, and alcohol use.
Texas state law requires each occupant of a boat or paddle craft have access to a life jacket. Children under 13 must wear one while the boat or paddle craft is underway or drifting.
“Wear a life jacket, know how to swim and closely supervise children,” said Kimberly Sorensen, TPWD Boating Education Manager. “Know the rules of the waterway. These are some simple but extremely effective ways to increase water safety.”
Visit TPWD’s boating laws website for more information about boating safety, laws and requirements.