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Heavy boat traffic expected for Labor Day weekend

DES MOINES – Boaters heading out for the Labor Day holiday will likely find busy waterways and lower water levels.

Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said boat operators need to operate with caution and to watch for hazards in the water, starting at the boat ramp.

“Use caution when loading and unloading the boat. Back in only as far as necessary to get the boat on and off the trailer to avoid backing into a scour hole or off the end of the ramp,” Stocker said.

The weekend weather forecast is favorable for boaters and combined with a three day weekend should produce heavy boat traffic. Stocker said ramps will likely be busy, placing boating etiquette at a premium.

“Everyone is excited to get on the water,” she said. “Be patient, and when it’s your turn be ready to launch. Courtesy on the water goes a long way in avoiding problems.”

She said an obvious way to prevent problems is for boat operators to avoid alcohol while operating the craft.

“We want boaters to have fun on the water, but we don’t want that fun to end in a boating tragedy. Boaters need to keep safety in mind while on the water,” Stocker said.

Preparing for a safe day on the water begins in the driveway. Make sure to have a properly fitting life jacket for each person on board and that all of the safety equipment, including a properly working fire extinguisher, is on board.

“Remember, life jackets only work when worn,” Stocker said. “Life jackets float, you don’t.”

• Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun, glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.
• High water is impacting certain areas. Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.
• Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.
• Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved throwable device onboard.
• File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.
• Wear your lifejacket – it floats, you don’t.
• Inflatable lifejackets are light weight, comfortable and USCG approved. Wear it.
• Take a boater education course. It has valuable information and many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance.
• Top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels.

2013 Iowa Boating Statistics (through Aug. 16)
37 BWI arrests
17 Boating incidents
2 Fatalities
5 Property damage
10 Personal Injures

2012 Iowa Boating Statistics (through Aug. 8)
93 BWI arrests
25 Boating incidents
8 Fatalities
8 Property damage
21 Personal injures

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