Safety on Texas Lakes

Lake Conroe is a very popular Texas lake for boaters, jet skiers, and fishermen alike. Less than an hour’s drive from any part of Houston, it is a favorite getaway location for Houstonians. It is also a lake that has taken extra precautions in protecting those who use it. Boating safety on Lake Conroe has long been an issue. In light of the boating accidents of recent years, steps have been and are being taken to make Lake Conroe a safe getaway as well. Constable Don Chumley’s Office has operated a Marine Division on Lake Conroe for several years. The Marine Division operates three boats and is manned by three officers from the Constable’s Office. Sergeant Greg Gibson is in charge of the three-man division consisting of himself, Cullen Thomas, and Randy Sanson. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department also has a two-man squad that patrols Lake Conroe. This team is made up of Ken Henderson and Robert Schuster. All of these officers are on the lake to protect its guests and keep the lake safe for everyone. The lake is seeing more boats than ever before this summer and there are also a tremendous amount of jet skis. Greg Gibson of the Constable’s Office says they are writing more tickets this year and “really checking out boats this year” in an effort to make Lake Conroe a safe place to visit. There are extra patrols on the docket including night patrols “Our goal is to make Lake Conroe have the safest year we’ve ever had before by teaching boaters about boat safety and educating boaters on the rules and regulations of boating and promoting the consideration of others. The safer the lake, the more people will be drawn to the lake.” Greg’s predictions are already starting to show in the Lake Conroe area. Boat sales are up in Conroe and Greater North Houston and more houses are going up along the lakeshore. A bill passed by State Congress in 1996 established a minimum age for operators of personal watercraft, which includes jet skis, water bikes, and boats. The bill says that no person can operate a personal watercraft under the age of 13 and all those under 16 must have passed an approved boating safety course if operating the boat alone. The bill has been approved by the industry, says Tim Spice, a Voter Education Coordinator of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Spice is himself a boater and feels that operating a boat is very different than operating an automobile. “We need education,” he says, “I feel education will save lives.” The boating safety course authorized by the bill is called “Boat Texas” and it is offered by volunteers, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron, two groups that offer education programs. It is also in a home-study course and can be ordered by calling (800) 460-9698. The TP&WD also offers the course on-line at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/edu/boated/boattx.htm. Or you can simply search for the phrase “Boat Texas”. One thing stressed in the course is the wearing of personal flotation devices (PFDs). All users of jet skis and water-bikes and all children under the age of 13 are required to wear PFDs at all times. According to Spice, the statistics on PFDs are that 85% of people who drown would be alive if they’d had them on. The Boating Trades Association of Texas is a self-governing organization dedicated to the interests of the boating industry and public of Texas. The BTAT is a strong promoter of education among boaters. Darryl Hurst of the BTAT said recently of the group, “We have no tolerance for illegal or inappropriate behavior on the water and we will continue to work for a more educated and informed boating public.” Let’s try real hard this year to make Lake Conroe the safest lake in Texas, OK ya’ll?

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