Staying safe during boating season

Monday, May 20, 2013 - 8:15pm

21 year old Wildrick Jenkins of Marshall, TX was killed Sunday afternoon, when a relaxing day canoeing on Caddo Lake turned tragic. Witnesses say Jenkins didn't know how to swim and wasn't wearing a life jacket. When the canoe he and a friend were in overturned, Jenkins wasn't able to save himself. One person said she saw life jackets from the boat floating down Caddo Lake.

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department wishes the drowning didn't happen, but hope the loss of a young man's life serves to remind people of the dangers of the lake.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers a boating safety course, which they recommend for everybody, but require for people under 14 that want to drive a boat. Another must know law for people with children under 14 is that children in that group are required to wear a life jacket at all times while on a boat.

While adults aren't required to wear a life jacket, authorities hope they do, and one is required to be on board for every person on the boat.

Life jackets aren't the only way to stay safe. The sheriff's office also reminds people to pay attention to weather reports, especially if wind or rain is in the forecast.

Texas Parks and Wildlife also offers these safety tips for boaters; they want people to have fun and enjoy boating, they just want them to stay safe while doing it.

Always wear a life jacket.
Avoid alcohol.
Be especially careful on personal watercrafts.
Children younger than age 13 must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD 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

Most boating fatality victims were found (recovered) NOT wearing a PFD.
Always carry extra PFD’s in both adult and child sizes.
Children younger than 13 years old must wear a PFD while underway.

Avoid Alcohol

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’ve been drinking.
Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible Driver’s License suspension.

Enroll in a Boater Education Course

It’s a good idea for the whole family to enroll in a boater education course.
A majority (52%) 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 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Boater Education Web pages or call (800) 792-1112.

Be Especially Careful On Personal Watercraft (PWC)

PWC operators and passengers must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD.
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 PWC’s, vessels, persons, shore, or stationary platform or other object unless operating at headway (idle) speed.

Operate at a Safe 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.


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