|  TPWD News Release 20040816b                                            |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Kristen Everett, 512-389-8046, tpwd.news@tpwd.texas.gov ] [KE]
Aug. 16, 2004
BWI Arrests Up Statewide as TPWD Readies for Labor Day Traffic
Extra! Read All Aboat It!
AUSTIN, Texas -- So far this year, TPWD game wardens have arrested 231 people statewide for Boating While Intoxicated. Through the same time period (Aug. 9) of 2003, there were only 180 arrests.
TPWD wants to remind everyone that if they are caught drinking and operating a boat, and convicted, the penalties are the same as for DWI. The blood-alcohol limit is .08. And the myth about how everyone should refuse to be tested if pulled over -- that one does not pay. Your driver's license can be suspended if you refuse a blood-alcohol test.
However, it appears boating accidents, boating fatalities, and boating injuries are down this year so far compared to the same time in 2003.
"Although the 20 fatalities at this time is nearly half as many as the 39 Texas had thru early August in 2003, we still warn boaters to take every precaution to keep from becoming a fatality statistic," said Alfonso Campos, chief of marine enforcement at TPWD.
TPWD has made nearly 400,000 water-related contacts so far this year and Game Wardens are readying for the busy Labor Day weekend on the water.
When heading out to the water, remember don't drink and boat, wear your lifejacket even if you are a good swimmer (you can't swim if you are knocked out) and maintain a 50-foot distance when on personal watercrafts (jet skis).
Boating Safety Tips
--Always wear a life jacket.
--Avoid alcohol.
--Be especially careful on personal watercrafts.
--Children younger than age 13 must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while underway.
--Enroll in a boater education class.
--Don't overload your boat.
--Operate at a safe speed.
--Always have a passenger serve as a lookout in addition to the operator.
--Watch out for low water areas or submerged objects.
--Always Wear A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or Life Jacket
--Only 9 percent of boating fatality victims were found wearing a PFD.
--Always carry extra PFDs in both adult and child sizes.
--The probability of being killed in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved.
--Operating a boat under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a car after you have been drinking.
--Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible Driver's License suspension.
--It's a good idea for the whole family to enroll in a boater education course.
--52 percent of vessels involved in boating accidents are operated by persons 26-50 years of age.
--For information on classroom, home video and on-line course options, visit the TPWD Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/) or call (800) 792-1112.
--Be especially careful on Personal Watercrafts (PWCs)
--PWC operators and passengers must wear a life jacket.
--Before you borrow or rent a PWC, take the time to learn how to operate the vessel and the rules of the waterway.
--Obey the 50-foot rule! Maintain a 50-foot distance from other PWCs, vessels, persons, shore, or stationary platform or other object unless operating at headway (idle) speed.
--Although there are no numerical speed limits on the water, citations may be issued for excessive speed or reckless operation. Use common sense, and operate at a safe speed at all times -especially in crowded areas.
--Excessive speed is a rate of speed greater than is reasonable or prudent without regard for conditions and hazards or greater than will permit a person to bring the boat to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.
Boating Facts
--There are approximately 621,000 registered boats in Texas, ranking it 5th in the country.
--Texas has more square miles of inland water than any other state.
--Recreational boating safety is a primary area of responsibility of Texas game wardens.
The most common water safety citations are issued are for:
--Not having enough lifejackets on board the boat.
--Children younger than 13 not wearing a life jacket.
--Game Wardens enforce the Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law. A person who either appears to be impaired and/or has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher while operating a boat can be arrested for BWI.
--A person arrested for BWI may be jailed for up to 180 days, be fined as much as $2,000 or both. Additionally, the person's drivers' license may be automatically suspended.
--Alcohol plays a role in 50 percent of all boating accidents, according to BOAT US.
--The use of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket would eliminate nearly 85 percent of boating fatalities.
--A typical boating accident fatality involves:
--An open motorboat 83 percent of the time; weekends 59 percent of the time;
--The hours between Noon and 7 p.m. 59 percent of the time;
--The victim falling overboard, 34 percent of the time;
--An operator between 26-50 years of age 52 percent of the time; and
--A personal watercraft, 9 percent of the time.
Texas Boating Statistics
Year	Accidents	Injuries	Fatalities
1997	258	222	69
1998	252	187	53
1999	262	186	51
2000	257	173	55
2001	242	191	41
2002	249	153	61
2003	264	175	39
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/boat/).