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The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is spreading water safety awareness and asking for caution on lakes and rivers during National Water Safety Month in May. 

Wearing a life jacket, using a boat ignition cut-off switch, and observing safe swim practices can help you avoid tragic accidents on the water, said Cody Jones, Texas game warden assistant commander for Marine Enforcement at the TPWD.

“Life jackets are one of the easiest, most accessible tools to prevent fatalities,” he said. “If an accident occurs, it is unlikely you will have time to find a life jacket and secure it properly, so it’s best to wear one at all times when on the water.”

According to state law, every person on board a watercraft must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket available. While adults aren’t required to wear one at all times, children under the age of 13 must wear a fitted life jacket while the vessel is underway. 

Fifty percent of deaths on Texas waterways in 2022 were due to drowning and 69 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.

Jones also noted the importance of using the kill switch, even if you are an experienced boater. 

“Most accidents and injuries happen when people are cruising around in boats or relaxing on the water, and nearly a quarter of all operators involved in an accident have more than 500 hours on the water,” he said. “To me, this means don’t let your guard down. Accidents can happen when it’s least expected. We want everyone to stay safe on the water.”

Safe swimming practices include never swimming alone, staying in designated swimming areas, staying hydrated and sober while swimming, and making sure everyone in the water knows how to swim.

TPWD safe swimming practices especially note the importance of closely monitoring young children in the water. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 and the second-leading cause of accidental death for ages 5-14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

dakota@thepicayune.com