If you are planning on celebrating the end of the summer season this Labor Day weekend by enjoying one last adventure on the lake or cooking up a mean barbecue, stay safe, public safety officials say.
The Texas Department of Public safety will have all available highway patrol troopers on duty during the Labor Day holiday, Texas Highway Patrol Staff Sgt. Mark Tackett said.
Troopers will be out in force looking for people speeding, not wearing seat belts, engaging in road rage and driving while intoxicated, according to Tackett, a DPS spokesman.
“This will be a maximum effort to ensure the roadways of Texas are as safe as possible during this holiday period,” he said.
Gainesville Police Chief Kevin Phillips said his department will have officers on the roadways watching for traffic violations due to increased traffic. They, too, will be on the lookout for alcohol-related offenses.
“The Gainesville Police Department would like to encourage everyone to have a safe Labor Day holiday weekend,” Phillips said. “There will be more people traveling so the roadways will be busy. Drivers need to remain alert and allow extra time for trips due to the traffic.”
According to a news release issued this week from the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 328 crashes involving motorists who were driving under the influence of alcohol last Labor Day weekend in Texas. Of those, eight people were killed and 25 were seriously injured, the release states.
Crash statistics were pulled from 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, to 11:59 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3, 2018, officials said.
Phillips said the police department requests that drivers avoid consuming alcohol, but if they do, “please do so responsibly.”
“Designated drivers, taxis and other transportation services are good options to avoid driving after drinking alcohol,” he said.
Cooke County Sheriff Terry Gilbert said his agency will also “be watchful for unsafe driving.”
“We hope everybody has an enjoyable holiday,” Gilbert said.
Gainesville Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Tamara Sieger said the fire department encourages residents to use caution this holiday weekend, particularly if they’re grilling outdoors.
“Both gas and charcoal grills have the potential to cause fires and injuries when not used properly,” Sieger said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors. Children and pets should be at least three feet away from the grill area and the grill should be placed away from a person’s home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Officials say to be sure the gas grill lid is open before lighting it and to keep grills clean by removing any grease or fat buildup. A grill should also never be left unattended.
Sieger said following grilling safety guidelines set by the NFPA will help prevent fires and reduce injuries “so that everyone can enjoy a safe holiday weekend with their families as the summer winds down.”
Cooke County Game Warden Stormy McCuistion said wardens with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are planning to be out in full force on all area lakes this three-day weekend.
“We will be doing double duty between being on the water and checking dove hunters for opening day starting Sunday,” McCuistion said. “We need folks to watch their alcohol consumption while operating a boat and bird hunting.”
In addition, Kali’s Law, the new mandatory ignition “kill switch” requirement for boat operators, goes into effect Sunday, Sept. 1.
“More than likely, we will be making people aware of the change through information,” McCuistion said.
The new law was established in response to the fatality of Kali Gorzell, a 16-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a boat propeller near Aransas Pass in 2012, according to a news release from the TPWD.
An ignition safety kill switch shuts off the boat motor automatically if the operator is thrown from the helm, officials say.
The law requires operators of boats less than 26 feet in length that are equipped with an ignition safety kill switch to use it whenever the vessel is moving at greater than headway speed.
Kali’s Law does not require the retrofitting of older vessels that are not equipped with a kill switch. It also does not permit the removal of a kill switch device that was originally installed on the vessel, according to the news release issued this week.
Wireless kill switch devices are permitted for those who aren’t comfortable using lanyard-style devices.
In addition to educating the public on the new law, wardens will be looking for intoxicated boaters and children under the age of 13 not wearing a personal flotation device.
McCuistion said it’s against the law for children under 13 to be without a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while in a vessel that’s underway and less than 26 feet in length.
Even if you are older than 13, wearing a life jacket while on a boat is highly advised, McCuistion said.
So far this year, no drownings have been reported in Cooke County, according to officials.
Phillips said Marine Safety Enforcement Officers will be on Moss Lake to ensure everyone is complying with the Texas Water Safety Act. That includes making sure everyone has a life jacket, the capacity of the boat has not been exceeded and that boat operators have completed a boater education course when needed.
Officers will be looking for alcohol-related offenses on the water, as well.