In 2020, Texas boating accidents hit a 30-year high and waterway fatalities spiked 45%—among those fatal accidents, 40% involved paddle crafts such as kayaks, canoes and paddle boards, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
The increase promoted a call for boater education and as Texas heads into peak boater season, TPWD and local agencies are stressing proper safety measures, according to a July 1 news release.
This Fourth of July weekend, TPWD’s boater education team and volunteers from America’s Boating Club, Texas Game Wardens, City of Austin Lake Patrol and City of Austin Park Rangers will host free vessel safety checks for paddle crafts on Austin’s Lady Bird Lake.
The team of volunteers will present hands-on safety demonstrations and information sessions from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on July 4 at Festival Beach located in Town Lake Metropolitan Park, east of I-35.
The event is offered in conjunction with Operation Dry Water—a national enforcement campaign dedicated to deterring boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Community Impact Newspaper previously reported that nationally, alcohol was the primary cause of about 23% of drownings, as reported by the U.S. Coast Guard's 2019 recreational boating statistics.
Volunteers will check paddle crafts for proper safety equipment and will provide self-rescue techniques and tips on how to handle a capsized vessel.
“We are focusing on boating and water safety including proper life jacket fit and use, safe vessels and understanding safe paddling skills,” TPWD Boat Education Manager Kimberly Sorensen said in the release.