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Forty-five people died in Texas boating accidents in 2017, a 28 percent increase in deaths over 2016. Another 83 were hurt in 172 boating accidents statewide.

To keep that number from climbing again in 2018, state game wardens and parks officials urge Texans to take basic safety precautions as the summer boating season begins this weekend.

Most boating fatalities are caused by drowning and most victims are recovered without a life jacket, officials say. Wearing a life jacketónot just having one on the boatóis the best way to increase your chances of surviving an accident. In addition, state law requires that all children under 13 wear a life jacket while on the water.

    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.
    Donít 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 PFDís 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 youíve been drinking.
    Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible Driverís License suspension.

Enroll in a Boater Education Course
    Itís 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.
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 PWCís, 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 ó 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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