Wardens warn of low water, lower legal limit for BWI

As boaters prepare for the summer season, game wardens are waring of low water conditions throughout the state as well as strict enforcement of boating-while-intoxicated laws under the new minimum 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content law. On lakes, rivers and bays throughout the state, game wardens, along with local law enforcement agencies, are patrolling busy waterways and will continue throughout the summer. The key messages game wardens deliver to boaters are: ‘ Always wear a life jacket ‘ Avoid alcohol ‘ Be especially careful on personal watercraft ‘ Maintain a proper lookout at all times (required by law) ‘ Maintain a safe speed as weather, water, boat congestion and traffic conditions dictate (required by law) Legislation went into effect Sept. 1, 1999, which lowered the blood-alcohol content from 0.10 to 0.08 for boat operators as well as automobile drivers. Any boat operator who appears to be under the influence or who has a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater may be arrested. Boating-while-intoxicated violations carry penalties similar to driving-while-intoxicated violations. There will be no grace period for enforcing this new water safety regulation, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Law Enforcement Director Jim Robertson. “It seems that many boaters are becoming aware that drinking while boating is just as dangerous as drinking while driving,” said Robertson. “Nearly all accidents and fatalities can be avoided if people simply use common sense, are courteous on the water, wear their life jackets and avoid alcohol.” Despite recent rains in various parts of the state, some lake levels remain as much as 15 to 30-feet below normal. Boaters are reminded to be cautious when operating on lakes with low water levels. Tips for boaters operating on lakes with low water levels include: be familiar with the body of water, watch closely for submerged objects such as tree stumps, rocks, islands and sandbars and avoid operating at night. Water-skiers, wake-boarders and persons towed in inner-tubes should be extremely careful on lakes in which the water level is low, according to TPW’s Boating Law Administrator Carlos Vaca. Those being towed in inner-tubes are particularly vulnerable to being injured by submerged objects because they are not able to maneuver the tubes. For information on boating safety courses, call Texas Parks and Wildlife at (800) 792-1112 or visit the department’s web site at www.tpwd. state.tx.us. Persons born on or after Sept. 1, 1984 must complete an approved boater education course before operating alone boats of 10 horsepower or more or sailboats over 14-feet in length.

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