Despite heavy rainfall and thunderstorms, Texas Game Wardens remained busy throughout the Memorial Day weekend.
Statewide boating incidents surpassed reports from the 2020 holiday weekend in almost every category, according to a June 3 release from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Between June 28-31, wardens issued 1,283 citations on the water and an additional 1,639 warnings for safety law violations, according to TPWD. Wardens are investigating 17 boating accidents and 3 boating-related deaths on Texas waters.
The increase in incidents can, in part, be attributed to a recent pandemic-fueled spike in new boaters, according to Cody Jones, TPWD’s assistant commander of marine enforcement.
While many businesses suffered losses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the boating industry was not one of them. In September, The National Marine Manufacturers Association stated 47% of marine manufacturers saw a year-over-year increase in new orders.
Between 2019 and 2020, Travis County saw 3,341 new boater registrations compared to 2,554 from 2017 to 2018, per TWPD’s boater registration data.
Community Impact Newspaper previously reported that 2020 was the busiest year to date for local Lake Travis marina owners and boat dealers.
“The increase in boating safety incidents over the Memorial Day weekend is attributed in part to many variables, including the increase in new boaters since the start of the pandemic in 2020, severe weather, lack of use of life vests, abuse of alcohol, and not following general rules of safe boating,” Jones said in the release.
Annually, many of these boating incidents could have been avoided by using boating education and life vests, which are also recommended for paddle boards, kayaks and other personal flotation devices.
Jones previously told Community Impact Newspaper that alcohol consumption is a leading contributor to boat accidents and can increase an individual’s chance of drowning by roughly 50%. During Memorial Day weekend, wardens arrested 36 boaters statewide for Boating While Intoxicated, according to TPWD.
Texas boaters can learn more about boater education, laws and safety precautions on TPWD’s website.