Advice & Features Articles

Enjoy a Break on the Lake

Shore Up for Safe Summer Fun with These 6 Tips

by Lisa A. Beach

For many families, nothing beats an afternoon on the lake, but before you spend the day outdoors, review some guidelines to ensure your day of fun in the sun is safe.

Although we all might still need prompting about the importance of applying sunscreen, there are even bigger issues to deal with—the potential dangers of boating, swimming and drinking alcohol. 

For starters, share these sobering statistics:

• Drowning is the third leading cause of injury-related death among children 19 and under, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

• Nearly 85% of boating fatality drowning victims in Texas were not wearing a life jacket, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

• Alcohol plays a role in 50% of all boating accidents, according to Boat Owners Association of the United States.

To jumpstart your conversation about water safety, boating and alcohol, arm yourself with the above statistics and cue up these safety tips:

1Know your surroundings
Swimming in a pool is a lot different than swimming in open water, where cold temperatures, strong currents, jagged rocks, uneven surfaces, submerged objects and unpredictable weather increase the dangers.

2Avoid alcohol
Alcohol dehydrates, slows reaction time and impairs balance, coordination and judgment. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the probability of being killed in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved.

3) Always wear a life jacket, 
even if you know how to swim.

4Never swim alone
Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard. If that’s not possible, always swim with a buddy, so you’ve got some built-in help if needed.

5Keep others informed
If you’re heading out for a swim (or a jaunt on a boat, inner tube etc.), tell someone on land where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

6) Be prepared
Learn how to perform CPR. With more than 580,000 registered boats in Texas, education is key. The Texas Water Safety Act requires boater education training for anyone born on or after September 1, 1993. 

Remember that drinking and driving is a crime on land and water. Texas’ Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law states that “a person who either appears to be impaired and/or has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher while operating a boat can be arrested.” This could result in up to 180 days of jail time, up to $2,000 in fines and a driver’s license suspension.

Even if alcohol isn’t involved, there’s the issue of liability if the person operating your boat or jet ski causes an accident.

“The liability and rules that apply to driving in a vehicle are almost the same for boating,” explains Robert L. Chaiken, an attorney and partner in Chaiken & Chaiken P.C. in Plano that specializes in civil litigation, including personal injury and wrongful death. “If you’re operating a boat and cause an accident, you’re liable just like you’d be if you were driving a car—to the people in your vehicle and anyone else you get in an accident with.”

Speaking of liability, what about any mishaps that occur at your lake house?

“If someone gets injured on your lake house property, you’d have the same kinds of liability and concerns that you’d have in your own home,” Chaiken says. His advice? “Get the same kind of insurance protection (homeowners insurance) on your lake house as you have on your home.”

To balance both fun and safety, it all boils down to using a common-sense approach.

“Limit the number of people you allow at the lake house, identify them ahead of time and square it away with all their parents,” advises Chaiken. “Plus, know your kids’ level of maturity and responsibility, have a lot of rules, talk about what’s acceptable and check in with your kids to monitor what’s going on if they’ll be unsupervised.”

Editor’s Note: For information on approved boater education courses, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov/boatered/ or call (800) 792-1112. Most course fees start at $20, but boaters can take a free online course available through The BoatUS Foundation. 

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