Over the weekend, a Texas family living on a Texas bayou received a reminder that it’s Texas boating season once again, and that boating safety is a major issue all over the state.
A Reminder That Safe Boating Saves More Than Lives
The reminder came in the form of an accident in which the family of Vincent Silva, who was doing the cooking at the time, enjoying a barbecue was interrupted when a speedboat ran over a small dock and into their backyard in Dickinson, in Galveston County. According to police, while a handful of people left the boat immediately after the crash, and one woman was thrown from the boat in the process of the crash, there were no serious injuries. One woman was transported to a local hospital with shoulder pain. Police filed no report immediately after the incident, but they didn’t know if alcohol was a factor in the crash. The accident happened Sunday evening, May 26.
According to witnesses, the twin-engine 300 horsepower boat was still sitting in the Silvas’ yard as of Monday. The owner of the craft, who tried to avoid publicity after the accident, said he “lost control” while steering the boat, although Silva didn’t buy that explanation and suggested that it just meant he was going too fast. The boat, after all, came over a dock, through the Silvas’ backyard fence and continued halfway through the yard before landing just short of the barbecue grill being operated by 77-year-old Vincent Silva. In addition to the damage to the dock and the fence, there was also significant damage to concrete in the backyard and the total destruction of a teen’s fishing boat. An hour before the crash, kids were seen fishing on the dock in the very same location where the boat leaped over the dock. Some witnesses also claimed the same boat sped so close to shore that water splashed a five-year-old who was standing on a deck.
Boating Season Means a Boating Safety Push
This accident happened after officials at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) law enforcement(Game Wardens) spent all of National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24, reminding Texas boaters to stay safe over the Memorial Day Weekend and throughout the summer by following the law and taking basic safety precautions while on the water. They were also out in full force on all Texas waterways, to make sure the public was able to enjoy Texas waterways responsibly. In 2018r, there were hundreds of boating accidents and only 29 boating fatalities, which was the lowest number in more than five years, but officials noted that was still too many, and that all of them were preventable by taking simple steps to stay safe. For example, many accidents and injuries could have been prevented simply by making use of life jackets and by using the safety ignition kill switch.
Safety ignition kill switches are included as a standard feature on most motorized boats, but they only work when boat operators take the extra step of clipping it on. If a boat’s operator is ejected, the only way to stop the engine and prevent the boat from hitting someone is by using the kill switch. According to safety officials, many of the 29 fatalities could have been prevented if the driver had just used the kill switch. They note that it only takes a few seconds to clip the safety ignition kill switch onto a belt loop or life jacket, and the result could save the lives of everyone on board.
According to state law, a life jacket must be available for every occupant of a boat, while children are required to be wearing one while on board, even if the craft if simply floating or drifting. However, even with those laws, Texas Game Wardens issued more than 1,600 citations for insufficient life jackets on a craft, and 571 citations for children not wearing a life jacket. Since the most-reported cause of death in boat accidents and most of the victims are not wearing life jackets, this is a very important safety law.
A Push Against Drinking and Boating
Game Wardens and other safety officials also spent the Memorial Day Weekend looking for those who violate the laws against boating under the influence. It is against Texas law to operate a boat with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 percent. In 2018, Game Wardens issued 162 citations for boating under the influence or boating while intoxicated. Those cited for such violations face fines and the loss of a driver’s license, but that is nothing compared to the increased risk of serious boat accidents and injuries or fatalities.
We all have a responsibility to boat safely. Even though the number of fatalities seems to be dropping, we should not be satisfied until the number is zero. If you would like more information on boating safety, including all laws and requirements, we recommend a visit to the TPWD boating laws website.