Sober Sailing - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Sober Sailing

Now that the summer is here and the lakes are full, more Texomans will be heading out to take a ride on a boat.

While law enforcement officials want everyone to have fun, they want to remind everyone to be safe. 

“When you have water and you have people on the water, alcohol consumption is a prevalent thing,” Eddie Hood, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden said.

Even though legally anyone 21-years-old and above can drink, it is highly discouraged.

“The leading cause of death in boating accidents is alcohol related,” he said.

This is why every year Operation Dry Water takes place.  It is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA),in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

“On a normal weekend there may be two or three boats out there,” he said, “There's going to be four to six boats.”

Operation Dry Water will take place June 26th-28th.  It is always done the weekend before the fourth of July holiday.

“We feel that if we get out there early, people will see the law enforcement presence and maybe use their heads a little bit more when they get on the water,” he said.

Since the campaign launched, which was in 2009, there has been a decrease in the number of boating accident deaths.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics 2013, it has decreased from 19-percent to 16-percent.  While it is only a three-percent difference, officials said any amount is positive.

Officials realize they won't be able to check out all of the boats on the water during the campaign, but there are certain things they look for.

“The manner in which the boat is being operated is one thing,” Hood said, “Another thing is the number of people that are on the boat and you're also listening.”

Not wearing a life jacket is another problem.  Statistics show 84-percent of people who drowned in a recreational boating accident were not wearing one.  This isn't just if you are on the boat.  Officials said even if you are close to the shoreline you should be wearing one.  It might be annoying to wear, but it can save your life.

“If you're going to go out, let someone know where you're going, how long you plan to be there, and what time you plan on returning,” Hood said.

 Also take a cell phone just in case you need help.  You can never be too careful.

Officials said since it has been so long since the lakes have been full, people need to be extra careful.  They are concerned about people not being familiar with the lake.

“Operating a boat at night can be very, very tricky,” he said, “Even when you know the water real well.”

So take it easy and enjoy the waters.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6
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