Texas Boating Accidents
The summer months are around the corner, which means so is boating season. However, with great fun comes great responsibility. In 2010, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reported 152 boating-related accidents. Of this 152, there were 136 injuries and 27 fatalities. Although these numbers have been decreasing over the years, the numbers are very high. There are more than 600,00 registered boats in Texas, ranking 6th in the country. With so many people enjoying the lakes and water each year, people need to educate themselves on the proper safety and laws involved.
Alcohol plays a role 50% of the time in all boating accidents, according to BOAT US. Often times, the fatalities are caused by a failure to wear a life jacket. During a boating accident, people without a life jacket often get tossed over board.
A typical boating accident occurs on the weekend between Noon and 7 p.m. The victims are usually between the ages of 26-50 and are on an open motorboat.
Since alcohol often plays a significant part in these accidents, a Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law has been put in place. Game Wardens and Marine Safety Enforcement Officers make a dutiful effort to ensure this law is enforced. Any person found with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher or appears to be impaired while operating a boat can be arrested for BWI. If arrested, a person may be jailed for up to 180 days, be fined up to $2,000, and may have their drivers' license suspended.
Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 is required to take boater education to operate a personal watercraft (PWC) with a motor greater than 15-horse power (hp). The Texas Boater Education Program teaches boating safety and responsibility. This program includes tips on choosing the right boat, legal requirements for your boat, navigating rules and aids, getting underway, docking, anchoring and trailering, handling accidents and emergencies, weather, basic water safety, fire on board, water sports, and more. These courses are taught by US Coast Guard Auxiliary, US Power Squadron, trained volunteer instructors, teachers, and game wardens.
All children under the age of 13 are required to wear a life jacket while in a boat less than 26 feet in length that is underway. This recreational boating safety is the primary responsibility of Texas game wardens. They must issue a ticket for boats that do not have enough lifejackets on board and children under 13 that are not wearing a life jacket.
If you are involved in a boat accident, it is the responsibility of the boat operator to contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the nearest law enforcement agency within 30 days of the incident. If the accident resulted in a death you must contact the agency within 48 hours. You must also contact the agency if the accident causes injuries to a person that requires medical treatment beyond first aid and if the accident causes damage to vessel(s) or property in excess of $2,000.
To report an accident contact your local game warden, local law enforcement agency, or call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 24 hour police communications operator at (512) 389-4848.