My late friend Raymond Copley of Denison was fond of repeating certain sayings as each year rolled along.
One of those was this one: “He who goes forth on the Fourth with a fifth, seldom comes forth on the Fifth.”
As the 2019 version of the Fourth of July holiday weekend rolls on and thousands of boaters and water enthusiasts flock to busy lakes like the 89,000-acre Lake Texoma, law enforcement officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department certainly agree.
“Boating under the influence is just as deadly as drinking and driving,” said Cody Jones, TPWD assistant commander for Marine Enforcement, in a TPWD news release. “Every year we see dozens of boating accidents and tragedies on Texas waters that could have been avoided if the operator had refrained from drinking. We are calling on all Texans to keep our lakes safe and fun this holiday weekend and throughout the year by limiting alcohol consumption and having a designated driver at all times when boating on Texas waterways.”
Texas game warden Col. Grahame Jones, TPWD Law Enforcement division director, agreed.
“A recent fatal boating accident in Chambers County that took the lives of three clearly shows the risk of boating while intoxicated,” said Jones in the news release. “We will not tolerate people placing the boating public in harm by drinking and boating. You will be arrested and charged appropriately.”
That’s why once again this Independence Day holiday, thousands of Texas game wardens and other law enforcement officers are being extra vigilant in looking for those violating Texas’ boating under the influence laws with the annual “Operation Dry Water” weekend, a nationally coordinated campaign that brings more awareness and enforcement to combat this dangerous activity.
According to TPWD, these ramped up efforts are seeking to crack down on impaired boaters, starting with the Fourth of July yesterday and continuing on through the July 5-7 holiday weekend. Such an effort is necessary when you consider that some 19-percent of boating fatalities across the nation had alcohol listed as the leading contributing factor according to the 2017 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics report.
As a reminder, TPWD notes that operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 percent is an offense that can lead to fines, confinement in jail, and the loss of a driver’s license. In 2018, TPWD game wardens issued 162 boating while intoxicated citations across the state.
While the celebration of Uncle Sam’s 243rd birthday continues over the next few days, remember that there are other boating safety tips to keep in mind including: wearing a Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device, or life jacket); using the ignition safety switch; posting a passenger as an extra lookout to help watch for trouble when a boat is underway; not overloading a boat; operating at a safe speed; watching out for floating objects or submerged obstacles (especially given Texoma’s ongoing high water level); and keeping an eye to the sky for threatening weather conditions.
And also keep in mind that in Texas, anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must complete a TPWD boater education course to operate a personal watercraft or a boat with a 15 horsepower rating or more. For more information on such courses, call TPWD at 1-800-792-1112 or visit the agency’s website at www.tpwd.texas.gov.
Why all of the fuss once again as this year’s version of the Fourth of July holiday weekend runs its course?
Simple — to help make sure that you, your family and friends, and plenty of other boaters and water enthusiasts at Lake Texoma and beyond come forth happy and healthy on the Fifth of July.