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Texas Officials Urge Boating, Highway Safety During Spring Break

File Photo: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
File Photo: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
BOB PRICE

As spring break gets underway in the Lone Star State, officials remind people taking their party to public waterways to be aware of potential dangers that could lead to serious injury or death.

From the lakes and beaches to the highways that take you there, Texas officials want spring breakers to be aware of safety issues that could cause injury or death.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is responsible for boating safety on the states more than 7,000 lakes and hundreds of miles of beaches. Officials with the agency urge caution during spring break to avoid the dangers that come from water-related activities.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Department urges the public to be extra vigilant when it comes to water safety,” Game Warden Assistant Commander Cody Jones told Breitbart News in response to an inquiry. “Three key steps to staying safe while out on the water are to always wear an approved personal flotation device, recognize potential risks and hazards, and know your limitations.”

“Fatigue, alcohol impairment, and unforeseen dangers such as cross-currents, underwater obstructions and undertow can lead to tragedy,” Commander Jones said.

Large lakes like Lake Livingston, the state’s third largest, are also subject to sudden changes in the water conditions due to rapidly changing weather conditions. San Jacinto County County Sheriff’s Office Captain Joe Schultea, operations bureau commander, told Breitbart News that a boat capsized during a recent storm putting the three occupants of the boat’s lives in danger. Proper flotation devices kept the accident from becoming a tragedy.

“The father became separated from his wife and child when the sudden change in weather conditions resulted in the boat capsizing,” Capt. Shultea. “The father managed to swim to shore and call for help. Fortunately, the mother and child were both wearing life vests and were able to survive until help arrived.”

Other safety equipment is essential in preventing injury — particularly when utilizing personal watercraft like jet skis. In July 2016, Breitbart News reported a disturbing number of occurrences of very personal injuries resulting from the high-pressure water thrust when falling from the back of a jet ski.

“When a rider lands in the path of the high-pressure water jet thrust, the thrust is powerful enough to force water into the rider’s orifices which can result in severe mutilating injuries to the rider’s vagina, rectum, perineum or anus,” Beaumont, Texas, attorney Brian Mazzola said. “Oftentimes, individuals sustaining such injuries require emergency medical intervention including the surgical implantation of a colostomy bag.”

Mazzola told Breitbart News this week that since that time, there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of cases brought to his office and he has been forced to file litigation in nine states due to injuries that resulted from these types of circumstances.

In July 2018, Fox News reported on a case where a mother was “split like a banana” after falling off a jet ski. Ashleigh Donnelly, 31, told the reporter that she had to undergo several surgeries after an accident. She said she was sucked under the jet ski being operated by her son’s friend. Donnelly said the force of the water blast “ripped her insides out.” She reportedly suffered a seven-inch tear in her body from the forceful water blast.

Protective clothing can be worn to help prevent the water blast from readily being able to access the human orifices. Mazzola makes the point that such clothing is often not readily available for casual passengers who spontaneously take rides and who are most at risk to fall from the watercraft. “That’s why a warning is not the proper remedy for defective design,” he explained.

“Until the manufacturers implement design changes that would prevent orifice injuries from occurring, people/spring breakers should avoid riding as a passenger on a PWC,” Mazzola said.

Other dangers face Texas Spring Breakers including the state’s highways that transport them to the beaches and lakes.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials take highway safety very seriously during spring break and other holidays.

“Safety is our top priority at DPS, and we are asking the public to do their part by driving responsibly, obeying the laws and monitoring road conditions during their Spring Break travels,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement published by the Marshall News Messenger. “DPS will do our part to enhance safety by patrolling the roadways to identify and remove dangerous drivers.”

McCraw and DPS troopers recommend the following highway safety tips:

  • Do not drink and drive. Make alternate travel plans if you are consuming alcohol.
  • Move Over or Slow Down for police, fire, EMS, Texas Department of Transportation vehicles and tow trucks stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated. Also, show the same courtesy to fellow drivers stopped along the road.
  • Slow down, especially in bad weather, construction areas, heavy traffic and unfamiliar areas.
  • Eliminate distractions while driving, including the use of mobile devices. Texas law prohibits using a portable wireless device to read, write or send an electronic message unless the vehicle is stopped.
  • Buckle up everyone in the vehicle — it’s the law.
  • If you can Steer It, Clear It: If you are involved in a non-injury crash and your vehicle can be moved, clear the traffic lanes to minimize the impact on traffic. Leaving vehicles in a traffic lane not only increases traffic congestion, but it also leaves those involved with an increased risk of harm and chance for a secondary collision. On some highways, it is actually a violation of the law to not move your vehicle over when it is safe to do so.
  • Drive defensively, as holiday travel may present additional challenges.
  • Don’t drive fatigued; allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • If you see a road hazard or if you observe anything suspicious, report it to the nearest law enforcement agency.
  • On multi-lane roadways, use the left lane for passing only. Not only is it courteous driving and avoids impeding traffic, Texas law requires slower traffic to keep to the right and to only use the left lane for passing (when posted).
  • Before your trip begins, make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and always double check to make sure all cargo is secure.
  • Monitor weather and road conditions wherever you are traveling.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information from attorney Brian Mazzolla.

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