Designated Boat Drivers Save Lives

Summer is here and many Texans are itching to take to the lakes in boats or other personal watercraft in search of fun. While the Brazos River Authority gladly invites the public to enjoy the Brazos and its lakes, officials also caution seasonal revelers to think ahead and select a designated boat driver if drinking alcohol is part of their plans.

Doing so could help you to prevent legal costs and penalties and to avoid a tragic end to a beautiful summer day.

The statistics give a sobering glimpse at the deadly cost of drinking while operating a boat or personal watercraft.

Nationwide, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in boating deaths in 2008, the year the most recent numbers are available. That year, 124 people were killed and 246 were injured in alcohol-related boating accidents, according to the United States Coast Guard. In Texas that year, 61 people were killed and 173 injured in alcohol-related boat and personal watercraft wrecks, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Sadly, all of these deaths and injuries likely could have been avoided with a little foresight in selecting one person to stay sober and drive the boat.

Authority lake rangers take the issue very seriously, and patrol with a constant eye out for intoxicated boat operators, says Possum Kingdom Chief Lake Ranger Chris Denney.

“We want everyone to have a great time on our reservoirs while being responsible,” Denney said. “By choosing a designated driver you prevent needless loss of life and property. This is the most responsible thing an individual can do when boating, and remember, the designated driver is not the person who’s the most sober. “

The legal penalties for boating while intoxicated are stiff in Texas. A boat operator who appears impaired or has a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher can be arrested for BWI. If convicted, the arrested person can be jailed for up to 180 days and fined as much as $2,000. The person’s driver’s license can also be suspended.

As hard as these penalties are, they pale in comparison to the tragic loss of life in an alcohol-related boating accident. But happily all of the heartache can be avoided with just a little effort to plan ahead before you take to the water.