Heading toward the peak of Iowa's boating season, boaters and other on the water recreationists are urged to observe safety first, on or near their favorite lake or stream.
Traditionally, the 4th of July weekend is the busiest period on Iowa waters. Boating, paddling, fishing and swimming are even more popular with what are often the warmest temperatures of the year. Before you set out, though, help make sure everybody stays safe.
"We urge boaters--including passengers--to remain alert to activity around them,” advises Susan Stocker, boating law administrator for the Department of Natural Resources. "Don't overload your craft. The U.S. Coast Guard, along with manufacturers, determines the capacity of each boat and it is visible on virtually all boats.”
Operators can brush up on rules and regulations by taking the DNR boating safety course. Iowa law requires any person 12-17 years old, who will operate a motorboat over ten horsepower or a personal watercraft, to successfully complete the education program. It is available online at www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/Boating/BoaterEducation.aspx.
Stocker reminds everyone on board that they need a properly fitted lifejacket. Safety officials also urge you to WEAR it.
"It is similar to seat belts on the road. You won't have time to grab it and put it on when facing an emergency situation,” she said.
Other lake or river enthusiasts--from paddlers and anglers to swimmers--can avoid problems, too, by wearing a lifejacket, especially during heavy periods of boat traffic.
"With the variety of activities out there, a life jacket provides added safety while you are enjoying yourself," said Stocker.
The effects of sun, waves and wind over a day on the water are tiring; especially if alcohol is involved.
"Alcohol has a dehydration effect. It can impede judgment," warns Stocker. "Last year, 65 percent of Iowa's boating fatalities involved alcohol. Boating while intoxicated is against the law. A sober designated boat operator is vital on board."
In Iowa, there are more than 235,000 registered boats. Many of them will be out over the coming weekends. With everyone aware, everyone stays safe on the water.
• 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 required 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
For more information contact Susan Stocker, Boating Law Administrator and Education Coordinator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-281-0122 or 515-313-6439.