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Texas Boating Accidents Spike, Recreational Watercraft Sales Surge Amid Coronavirus Outbreaks

Boating accidents are rising across Texas, as shutdown weary residents look to the state’s waterways for a bit of respite from the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Boating injuries Up 68%

Just last month, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported that new orders for recreational watercraft were up 47% compared to last year, while sales have increased by 15%. But with more Texans taking to the water in recent months, boating injuries have increased by 68% statewide, and water injuries have risen by 55% compared to last year.

“We have seen a boost in the number of Texans on the water this year and, with that, unfortunately, has come a sharp increase in the number of water incidents,” Cody Jones, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s assistant commander for marine enforcement, told Community Impact Newspaper. “Due in part to the public health crisis, more boats and younger, less experienced operators have decided to hit the Texas waterways.

Causes of Texas Boating Accidents

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is a factor in about 23% of the drownings that occur in the United States every year. What’s more, drinking increases an individual’s risk of drowning by 50%.

“Whether you’re the operator or the passenger on the boat, you need to be cautious about your alcohol consumption,” Jones added.

Water levels also impact safety. For example, Texas boating accidents and injuries spiked in 2011 – the state’s driest year on record. As the resulting low water levels forced boaters to pack into smaller and smaller areas, the incident rate began to climb.

On the other hand, high water levels can hide potentially dangerous hazards like sandbars and sudden drop-offs.  New boaters or those unfamiliar with an area’s particular geography are more likely to get into trouble when levels are unusually high.

Education Key to Boating Safety

While Texas requires boat operators born after September 1, 1993, to complete a boating education course offered by the Parks & Wildlife Department, the program is available to new boaters of any age. Some retailers also offer instructional guidance for new buyers,

“We hold boating and outdoor recreation near and dear as a department and as Texans, and we want to see everybody enjoy our outdoors, but we want them to do it safely,” Jones continued. “With the new desire for people to get outdoors, a little bit of education goes a long way.”

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