This entire week has been buzzing at are lakes and rivers.

Many East Texas folks are already at the lake in preparation for the July 4th weekend. By Friday the crowds will likely double and Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest days of the year.

Everything from 25-foot wake boats to 14-foot john boats will be out in force. The scary part of this equation is twofold. Many of these boaters will be first time operators. Secondly alcohol will be abundant with celebrations and party goers. Boating is dangerous enough but mix in inexperienced operators and alcohol and you have a recipe for problems.

Texas requires operators to have a boater education course but some are grandfathered in.

The TP&W website/handbook lists these requirements:

“In Texas a person cannot operate a windblown vessel over 14 feet in length, a motorboat with more than 15 horsepower, or personal watercraft if he/she was born on or after Sept. 1, 1993: unless he/she has passed a boater education class or equivalency examination prescribed by the department.” The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department also covers Personal watercraft or PWC’s with the following:

To operate a PWC, the operator must meet one of the following:

Born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 and passed a boater education class or equivalency examination prescribed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Or: Persons requiring boater education who have not competed it must be accompanied by a person 18 years of age (who can legally operate) or older.

The good news is these courses can be done online easily provided the operator is familiar with the basics already.

These requirements are a good start for the new boater but even the older more experienced boaters can take a few words of advice while boating during the July 4th Holidays. I put together a short list of safety measures that might save you or a loved one some money, time and perhaps injury.

First and foremost: SLOW DOWN!

Many boats and PWC’s today can easily reach 60 miles and hour and some operators feel the need to prove their maximum speed as often as possible. The old adage of “watch the other guy” is true on a crowded lake. Low light conditions are more dangerous than clear daylight and do not forget their will be many boats underway at all hours of the night.

Don’t drink and drive (your boat) as Game Wardens can and do issue BWI’s which carry all the penalties of a DWI or DUI. Designate a captain for the day and save yourself some pain.

Personal floatation devices for everyone on board is a given but check the boaters safety list before ever launching. These are not suggestions and the lack of any safety requirements can be a costly citation.

Keep your eyes moving, and watch for traffic that may be heading your way. There are many other safety tips and regulations that be found on the TP&W website. Check them out and enjoy our great nation’s birthday on the East Texas waterway of your choice.

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— Email Chris Smith at