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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. When factoring in record rains this spring and many waterbodies at or above flood stage on top of increased use, it only makes sense to have a plan before you set out to 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. Watch for objects at or just below the surface. The rain and runoff may have washed logs or other debris into the water or moved previous obstacles to different locations.”
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 https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Boating/Boater-Education 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. "A sober designated boat operator is vital on board."
In Iowa, there are more than 231,000 registered boats. Many will be out over the coming weekends. With everyone aware, everyone stays safe on the water.