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Heavy Boat Traffic Expected for Memorial Day Holiday

clear-lake-spring-2012-webDES MOINES – Iowa’s peak boating season begins May 25 and with it comes a reminder for boat owners to make sure they have a current boat registration sticker on the vessel and that Iowa has a.08 alcohol limit for boat operators that became law on July 1, 2011.

“Going boating with friends is a fun way to spend a day and just like car drivers, boat operators are responsible for their passengers’ safety and for other boaters on the water,” says Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“A designated boat operator who abstains from alcohol is what we recommend.  Consuming even a little alcohol can have its intoxicating effects enhanced due to wind and wave action, the sun and glare off the water,” Stocker says.

Understanding and following safe boating practices is part of Iowa’s boater education program.
Iowa law requires any person 12 – 17 years old, who will operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower or personal watercraft, to successfully complete the boater education program.  The online version is available

Iowa’s top two boating safety violations are for not having the appropriate number or type of lifejackets onboard and for going too fast or close, to another boat or shore.

“Boats don’t have brakes. If you are traveling too fast for the conditions, you are inviting trouble,” she said.

The non-spring like weather in the upper Midwest likely kept boats in storage protected from the May snow, increasing the likelihood that Memorial Day weekend will be the first trip of the season for many boaters.

“I am expecting it to be a really busy weekend on the water so operators will need to be on the lookout for other boaters in addition to driving their boat. Alcohol can reduce their reaction time and impair their ability to make sound judgments quickly.”

In 2012, 95 boat operators were cited for boating while intoxicated.

“We will have officers patrolling on the water all summer with additional patrols during weekends and holidays when boat traffic is highest,” she says.

Officers will also perform routine safety equipment inspections.

Stocker said boaters should slow their speeds with the expected heavy traffic, watch out for other boaters, go through their boat and trailer looking for problems before leaving the driveway and make sure their safety equipment is on board and in working order.

“We don’t want to send someone off the water to take care of an issue that was easily solvable in their driveway,” Stocker says.

Iowa has more than 235,000 registered boats.

Boating Tips

  • Don’t drink and operate a boat
  • Take a boating safety course
  • Always wear a lifejacket – it can’t work if it’s not on
  • Have a throwable floatation device on board
  • Review boating laws
  • Remember, youth under age 13 are requiring to wear a lifejacket while the boat is underway
  • Have patience and be courteous on the ramp and water
  • Get a weather forecast before heading out
  • Keep watch for other boaters, swimmers, skiers, debris or other obstacles in the water
  • Have a fully charged, usable fire extinguisher
  • Maintain your boat trailer [lights, wheel bearings, tires]
  • Have a working horn or whistle
  • Prepare your boat in the rigging lane prior to launching
  • Don’t operate in a careless or reckless manner
  • Don’t violate buoys, as they are the road signs of the water

Arrests, Accidents, Fatalities 2012

  • 95 BWI arrests
  • 21 personal injuries
  • 10 fatalities

2011 [beginning July 1, BAC dropped from .10% to .08%]

  • 55 BWI arrests
  • 20 personal injuries
  • 4 fatalities

40 BWI arrests, 46 personal injuries, 5 fatalities

32 BWI arrests, 21 personal injuries, 3 fatalities

35 BWI arrests, 31 personal injuries, 0 fatalities

2012 Top 5 Areas for BWI Arrests

  • Mississippi River: 32
  • Saylorville Lake: 16
  • Okoboji: 15
  • Coralville: 14
  • Clear Lake: 6

2011 Top 5 Areas for BWI Arrests

  • Mississippi River: 19
  • Coralville Reservoir: 13
  • Saylorville Lake: 13
  • Okoboji: 4
  • Clear Lake: 3

2010 Top 5 Areas for BWI Arrests

  • Mississippi River: 10
  • Saylorville Lake: 6
  • Coralville Reservoir: 5
  • Missouri River: 4
  • Clear Lake: 3

2009 Top 5 Areas for BWI Arrests

  • Okoboji: 7
  • Missouri River: 6
  • Mississippi River: 5
  • Saylorville Lake: 5
  • Clear Lake: 2

2008 Top 5 Areas for BWI Arrests

  • West Lake Okoboji: 10
  • Mississippi River: 5
  • Missouri River: 5
  • Saylorville Lake: 2
  • Clear Lake: 2
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