If you are planning to head to the lake soon, you might
want to take note of new state laws designed to enhance
safety on the water.
During its most recent session, the Texas Legislature
passed bills on the use of lifejackets, boater education
and other areas related to safety on our lakes and rivers.
Lawmakers were prompted to act in part by a legislative
report by the Texas Advisory Panel on Boating Safety.
The report shows drowning is the top cause of boating
deaths, with 543 in 2009. Of those 385 were not wearing
lifejackets, often in rough weather or on hazardous
water. Here is a breakdown of these water safety laws:
Boater education courses
One law, H.B. 1395, requires anyone born on or after Sept. 1 1993 to complete a state-approved boater
education course to legally operate a boat with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or a wind-blown vessel
longer than 14 feet. Previously, state law required the course for boat operators ages 13 to 17.
The law, which went into effect as soon as it
passed, does not extend the requirement to
anyone born before the 1993 date. Boaters
covered by the boater education requirement are
required to carry a valid ID and documentation
showing they passed a boater education course.
Driving a qualifying boat without meeting these
requirements is a Class C misdemeanor, though
violators can have the citation dismissed if they
complete a boater education course within 90
The Brazos River Authority has long offered
qualifying boater education courses at Possum
Kingdom and Granbury lakes. There is still time
this year to take one of these courses. Class
dates available are: August 20 at Lake Granbury and August 13 or September 17 at Possum Kingdom Lake.
H.B. 308 requires all motorboats must carry at least one readily accessible life jacket for each person on
board. Previously, such watercraft were just required to have a life preserver or other approved floatation
device per person. The provision includes boats carrying passengers for hire.
The law also requires every person younger than 13 must
wear a life jacket if on a watercraft less than 26 feet in
length. The legislation says other floatation devices such
as life belts or ring buoys do not meet the requirement.
The new law, which went into effect upon passage,
includes canoes, kayaks and paddleboats in this lifejacket
H.B. 2981, which goes into effect Sept. 1, makes it illegal
to allow people of any age to ride in or on a boat or
personal watercraft that is being towed on a highway or street.
The law makes an exception for watercraft being towed in an emergency, parade or on a beach.
Finally, H.B. 596 prohibits a boater from operating a motorboat in a circular course around any other boat,
watercraft if an occupant is fishing, water skiing or is involved in a similar activity. The law makes an exception
for someone circling to retrieve a downed water skier. The legislation is also known as the Britteny Sage Lindt
Act. It was named for a teenager who was killed in 2006 on Lake Lewisville when she was struck by a boat
while floating in an inner tube. This last law goes into effect Sept. 1. For more information about these and
other laws passed in the most recent session, please click here.