The recent Texas floods have brought a number of problems, but residents who hated the rains during spring may be celebrating the rain during summer vacation. The rising water levels in Lake Houston, Burnet Bay, and throughout the state have encouraged swimmers, tubers, and boaters to take advantage of the high tides.
Unfortunately, a day that should be filled with fun on the water can cause serious injuries (or worse) for people on boats who don’t take proper safety measures. In order to keep your loved ones happy and healthy this summer, we offer the following boating tips so you can stay safe on Texas waterways:
Before You Set Off...
- Wear your life jacket. Most victims who suffer fatal injuries on the water are not wearing a personal flotation device, or life jacket. Your boat should be equipped with both adult and child-sized flotation devices, and they should be worn at all times while on the boat.
- Learn how to swim. Swimming lessons can help prevent victims from drowning if they fall from a boat, allowing them to survive a potentially fatal accident. Instruct your passengers what to do if they fall overboard: strong swimmers should make for a buoy or the nearest shore, while those who cannot swim well or cannot make it to shore should float on their backs with their arms extended to conserve energy. Always go back to rescue lost passengers the moment they are noticed missing from the boat.
- Check the weather. Make sure that there are no rain storms, squalls, or high winds predicted for your day on the water. If weather conditions turn foul while you are on a boat, reduce your speed, keep your passengers seated on the bottom of the boat near the center line, and head for the nearest safe harbor.
- Know the limits of your boat. Whether you own, rent, or borrow your vessel, you should take the time to learn the boat’s capabilities and the rules of the waterway. You should know how to drive and steer the craft, how many passengers the boat can safely take on, and how much weight it can handle.
While You’re Out on the Water...
- Watch for flood debris. The recent rains may have lessened the chances of running aground, but they have also brought runoff and large pieces of debris into open waterways. Submerged tree limbs and trunks are bobbing just below the surface, appearing as a small branch in the water that is nearly invisible to many boaters. Boaters can avoid damaged motors and propellers by keeping an eye out for debris and asking passengers to keep a lookout as well.
- Don’t speed. Speeding and racing is just as dangerous in a boat as it is on a roadway. Always operate your vessel at a safe speed, and make sure to maintain a space cushion of at least 50 feet away from all other boats and swimmers.
- Avoid alcohol. Piloting a boat while under the influence of alcohol isn’t just dangerous, it’s illegal. Any person operating a watercraft who is impaired or has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher can be arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI), and can face a jail term up to 180 days, license suspension, and a fine of up to $2,000.
Are your teenagers going boating alone for the first time this year? Do you know someone who flouts boating laws, even though he knows it isn’t safe? Feel free to share this article on Facebook or via email to remind your loved ones about the potential dangers of boating on flooded rivers.
If you've been injured by a negligent boater, contact Wayne Wright LLP to schedule a free consultation. You can also call 210-888-8888 for immediate help.