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Boating safety at forefront Memorial Day weekend

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CANYON LAKE, Texas – Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to the boating season for the state's many boaters and their more than 580,000 boats.

But boats come with boating accidents. Though only people born after Sept. 1, 1993, have to take a Boater Education Course, the 39 deaths and 119 injuries on Texas waters last year mean boating safety is a top priority.

Patrolling Canyon Lake as he has for the past eight years, Game Warden Michael McCall said there were a number of serious "chop" accidents from propellers last year.

"You wouldn't stick your hand down in, like, a moving blender," McCall said. "The prop is no different."

Besides keeping the boat out of gear when someone's in the water nearby, a kill switch is a good way to avoid propeller accidents should you get thrown into the water.

The most important thing you can do for safety, though, is wear a life jacket. Only kids 12 and under must wear one, but you need to have enough for everyone on board.

It's better to wear it than just have it in the boat, though.

"If something were to happen, I'm in the water, I'm ejected from the boat, I'm unconscious or injured, at least I'm floating until I can get some help," McCall said.

Given all the drinks you see in hand on a weekend, drinking is a clear suspect for boating danger. McCall said that's not the sole problem.

Speed's an issue, too, and "more often than not it's going to be operator inattention that results in the accident," he said.

The most common accidents are collisions, whether it's with other boats, docks or debris. If you include "grounding," you have the source of almost half of last year's accidents.

It's not just one age group that has accidents, McCall said.

"We've had accidents with folks in their 40s, 50 years old. We've had boat accidents with people in their 20s -- male and female," he said.

So whoever you are, whatever your experience, be safe -- and happy boating this summer.


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