Don't forget about boating safety on Memorial Day weekend

Don't forget about boating safety on Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and this is typically a time when thousands of folks across Texas take to the lakes, rivers and bays in boats, jet skis, kayaks and canoes. It’s also a weekend when game wardens will be out in numbers checking to make sure that you’ve got enough life jackets on board and that the person running the boat is not drinking and driving.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, all available Texas game wardens will be patrolling the state’s public waters over the Memorial Day weekend to make sure everyone who goes boating or fishing gets home safely.

Game wardens will be particularly on the lookout during the holiday for boat operators who have had too much to drink. Boating while intoxicated provides the same penalties as a DWI on the roadways, and for those on the water, it is just as dangerous.

During the first six months of last year, game wardens arrested 195 people statewide for BWI. In 2012, game wardens took 301 people to jail for operating a boat while drunk. During one holiday weekend last year, game wardens handled 6 BWI cases and investigated nine boating accidents that resulted in 13 injuries and one fatality.

Roughly, 17 percent of all boating fatalities are alcohol related.

In all 50 states, 0.08 is the legal blood alcohol limit, which is typically one drink – or one beer or two – per hour, depending on your weight.The 2014 North American Safe Boating Campaign is a yearlong campaign that promotes safe and responsible boating, and the value of voluntary life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme Wear It!

“Every day, I hear about the grim consequences of not wearing a life jacket while boating,” said Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the Wear It! campaign. “You can still have fun on the water while choosing to always wear a life jacket and boating responsibly.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2012, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. That’s why boating safety advocates continue to push for increased and consistent life jacket wear on the water.

Today’s life jackets are comfortable, stylish and easy to wear. In fact, they don’t even have to be jackets anymore. Old-fashioned, bulky orange life jackets have been replaced with innovative options such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting, and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.