NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If summer is in full swing then that means Texans across the state are enjoying boating season. But what begins as fun could turn to tragedy if boating safety isn’t considered.

Each year dozens of Texans die in accidental drownings or are left with potentially life-changing injuries after boating accidents.

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Brad Wallace, with North Texas Marine, recommends that every boater have not only a throwable flotation device onboard, but also some type of fire extinguisher. He also said you can never get relaxed and think you are familiar with a waterway. “Lake levels are always changing with rainfall amounts and the same lake that you went to two weeks ago may not look exactly the same when you go out this weekend on July 4th.”

It’s recommended that boaters not only operate their boats at a safe speed, but they need to also try and be aware of where obstructions are under the water.

Wallace also reminded that operating a boat comes with the same responsibility as operating a motor vehicle. “That’s what people don’t realize. The same laws and the same penalties are in effect on the water as they are on the road,” he said.

Officials say that operating a boat under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a car after you’ve been drinking. The probability of being killed in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved, and those deaths aren’t just from boat crashes. Wallace said one of the worst things you can do is swim while impaired.

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“It’s not the same being a strong swimmer in a small swimming pool, when you can get to the side easily. When you’re in the middle of the water it’s always important to have a life jacket on,” he explained. “Because no matter how strong of a swimmer you are, especially when impaired, it’s easy to become fatigued. That’s how a lot of accidents happen; when people overestimate their capabilities.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2012 there were 162 boating accidents on Texas, with 32 of them fatal.

Texas is home to almost 200 major lakes and has some 190,000 miles of rivers.

Click here to get more boating safety tips on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

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