As the thermometer shoots upward in the summertime, few places offer as much refuge from the heat as floating or riding on a boat in the lakes, streams and rivers. Boating is one of the most popular recreational pastimes not only in Texas, but around the country, as well. And when it comes to boating, one word stands out: safety. But while it pays to be safe on the water year-round, it’s especially important in the summertime. That’s because in summer, Texas, like most states, sees its numbers of boaters and swimmers go up exponentially, creating new hazards and exacerbating old ones. Summer is a time for vacations, adventures; a break from school for youngsters, and a chance to relax for those not so young. But it should also be a time for safety.
Texas’ water safety issues tend to mirror those in the United States as a whole. According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), in 2015, among 11,867,049 registered personal watercraft, there were 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and $42 million worth of property damage in 4,158 recreational boating accidents around the United States.
The USCG also reports that the leading contributing factor in boating accidents was alcohol use, which was present in 17 percent of the fatal accidents. In cases where life-jacket use was reported, 85 percent of drowning occurred with individuals not wearing a life jacket. Boats piloted by individuals without safety instruction accounted for 71 percent of deaths – only 15 percent of deaths occurred when the pilot had nationally-approved safety certificates.
Texas has more inland waterways than any other state in the country, and as a result here, more than most places, boating is a way of life. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPW) reports that in 2013, the state had more than a half-million – 582,478 – boats registered. Unfortunately, the number of boats also means more potential for accidents.
The USCG reports that in 2016, there were 176 boating accidents reported in the state of Texas. Of the accidents, 48 involved fatalities (for a total of 53 deaths), and 83 had non-fatal injuries. The accidents accounted for 7.6 percent of all recreational boating deaths, one of the highest rates in the country, and $985,087 worth of damages.
TPW has several safety suggestions for when people do get out on the water:
- Wear a Life Jacket – Sometimes some of the simplest tips are also some of the best. Even the strongest swimmer can have an accident or simply just get tired, but wearing a life jacket minimizes the risk of drowning in any case.
- Learn How to Swim – Learning to swim is an obvious boon to anyone spending time on the water. Simply being able to stay afloat if you’ve fallen off a boat can give you time to climb back aboard or wait for help to arrive.
- Closely Supervise Children – Children, especially when they are young, often make bad decisions. Supervise to make sure they don’t make dangerous ones and stay safe.
- Take Boater Education – A boater education course will prepare you for dangerous and unexpected situations and teach you what to do when they occur.
With more than 50 years of legal experience between them, the partners of Guajardo & Marks of Dallas, Texas, have the knowledge and resources to help with your legal needs. The firm has a reputation of unparalleled success and looks forward to assisting our fellow Texans. For answers to your questions or to set up an appointment, contact us online or call us at 972.774.9800.