Texas Game Wardens are stressing the importance of boater safety as thousands head to Texas waterways this holiday weekend.
On Lake Conroe, game wardens are increasing patrols to make sure everyone stays safe. They are conducting boat safety checks to make sure that everyone has the required emergency equipment on board, such as flotation devices. They are also on the lookout for impaired drivers.
In just the last two weeks, 12 people have died in boating or swimming accidents in Texas. Thirty-one people died last year and 146 accidents were reported by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“In 85 percent of those accidents, boaters weren't wearing their life jackets,” said Jonny Heaton, captain game warden for the College Station District. State law requires children under 13 to wear life jackets but game wardens are encouraging everyone to wear them.
"Our primary focus this weekend is boater safety. We are also looking for people who are displaying signs of intoxication," said Heaton. Heaton stressed the importance of designating a sober driver to operate both boats and vehicles.
The penalties for boating while intoxicated are the same as driving while intoxicated. In 2013, more than 200 citations were issued for boating while intoxicated statewide.