Summer safety is always important

Published on Friday, 4 July 2014 22:54 - Written by

For the moment, let’s stop worrying about politics, the Supreme Court and health care, and instead worry about health — our own, and our loved ones.’

The Fourth of July weekend will see the year’s highest number of Texans enjoying our lakes.

The fact that in many cases, alcohol will be involved should be a sobering thought.

Texas ranks among the top five states in boating fatalities. Part of that is the number of boats registered in the state. Texas is traditionally among the top 10 boating states in the country. In 2013 there were almost 580,000 boats registered in the state making it sixth behind Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, California and Wisconsin.

But it’s not just that.

Last year the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recorded 22 boating fatalities. That’s down from the previous year’s total of 26, but it’s still an unacceptable number. Alcohol has played a part in many of those fatalities. And as many as 70 percent of the victims would be alive today if they had worn life jackets.

TPWD has a long list of statistics that should scare people into thinking about their actions on the water. The department recorded 290 arrests for boating while intoxicated during this time last year.

Alcohol is suspected to be involved in more than half of all boating accidents.

Boating safety needs to start long before getting to the lake, first by making sure the boat and trailer are in good working condition. Depending on use, engines need to be tuned, lights should be checked and old fuel replaced.

When packing for a day on the lake, pack wisely and along with all the drinks, whether soft drinks or more adult beverages, put in lots of water. Boaters often don’t realize how much the sun’s reflection and heat takes out of them.

Sunglasses, hats and sunscreen are important as well.

Now for some legal stuff.

In Texas, there must be a life jacket on board for everyone on the boat. Those 13 and under are required to have it on at all times, if the boat is moving.

Life jackets are hard to wear in Texas during the summer because they are hot. One option, although expensive, is suspender-type flotation devices. They inflate when submerged. Again, they’re expensive, but what is the price of safety?

It is legal to drink while boating in Texas, but only to a limit. The same limit the driver of a car is considered drunk — a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. The potential outcome is the same. Convicted, a boater could lose his or her right to drive his or her boat for 180 days. The fines, court costs and attorney expenses will run into the thousands of dollars.

Frankly, everyone can use a break about now. And the Fourth of July weekend is a great time to reflect on what unites us, rather than divides us.

But let’s not ruin it with thoughtlessness out on the water. Taking those extra safety measures may not be fun, but neither is a funeral.