Texas Boating Accidents

by Terry Bryant

Boating Swimming Dangers

Boating safety is often overlooked

No matter how long you’ve been enjoying this big state’s many lakes and rivers, as well as the warm Gulf waters, you still need to be proactive about boating safety. That reality became clear again during the recent Fourth of July weekend. As might be expected, this long holiday weekend drew more people out onto the waters than just about any other this year.

A Houston Chronicle article published on July 9, 2016, reported that there were at least 34 boating accidents that occurred during the holiday weekend. One of the saddest fatalities involved a nine-year-old child who fell out of a boat on Cedar Creek Lake. She died after being hit by the boat’s propeller. Two other boating enthusiasts suffered major injuries after their boats collided head-on on Chocolate Bayou in West Galveston Bay. One of those injured had to be flown to Houston for medical care. Other serious accidents were reported on Lake Travis in Austin and Lake Caddo.

Hit-and-run accidents also happen on the water

One of the most troubling accidents that recently occurred involved a 51-year-old woman who was swimming from a boat to a dock nearby. A ski-style boat hit the woman – then failed to stop and help after realizing a major injury had been incurred. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens are investigating this event and are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this terrible crime.

New and recurring dangers also threaten harm to today’s boaters

Due to the many heavy rains that have fallen all around Texas this year, there are a number of newly formed sandbars that can go unnoticed by less experienced boaters. Also, our waters contain considerable new flood debris, including large trees and their branches. These objects can interfere with the proper operation of some boats, particularly near shorelines. All boaters are asked to keep these less common hazards in mind.

So far, about 13 people have lost their lives this year while boating in Texas. During recent years, our average number of annual boating fatalities has run close to thirty (30). Although this figure is still too high to be acceptable, at least it’s lower than the annual average of about 50 fatalities that were occurring back between 1997 and 2007.

Which types of watercrafts are involved in the most accidents?

During this past year, approximately 40 percent of Texas’ boating fatalities involved what are called paddle craft – canoes and kayaks. During this current year, about half of the reported fatalities have involved these highly popular vessels. At present, its estimated that Texans own about 250,000 to 300,000 canoes, kayaks, and other non-motorized boats that don’t have to be registered.

Unfortunately, far too many of those using these vehicles continue to make one major mistake in judgment – they don’t regularly wear life jackets.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is the single most important safety precaution any boater can take. It’s even more important for those traveling the waters in small paddle craft since they often capsize.

General warnings for all Texas boaters

  • Never drink and drive a boat or paddle an individual watercraft. Your sense of balance and judgment will be impaired – especially because warmer weather will cause you to feel the alcohol quicker as your become dehydrated;
  • Obey the Texas law regarding boater education requirements for all who were born on or after September 1, 1993. Failing to do so is not only against the law, it’s likely to result in your own serious injury or death – or that of one or more of your passengers;
  • Never go out boating when you’re exhausted or in poor health. Your judgment is likely to be impaired, and you deserve to return to shore safely – like everyone else you will encounter;
  • Avoid going out for fun on the water when the weather is poor or the forecast appears threatening. Too many novice boaters in every type of craft often fail to make it back to shore when they ignore this basic safety guideline.