The Fourth of July “weekend” (the days surrounding the holiday, no matter where they fall on the calendar) 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.
But it’s not just that.
Last year Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recorded 32 boating fatalities. There have been three on Lake Palestine since September in three separate incidents.
Alcohol has played a part in many of those fatalities.
TPWD has a long list of statistics that should scare people into thinking about their actions on the water. The department recorded 316 arrests for boating while intoxicated last year.
Ten of the 32 fatalities came in alcohol related incidents.
Five of the 32 killed were not wearing floatation devices.
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. Texas is experiencing a heat wave, and it’s not likely to break before the Fourth.
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?
Now, 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.
New this year is that anyone born after Sept. 1, 1993, must have passed a boater education course to legally operate a boat with more than 15 horsepower.
Frankly, everyone can use a break about now. And the Fourth of July 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.