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Stay sober and alert on the water this July 4th weekend

  • 6/25/2024 11:36:00 AM
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DES MOINES - State, federal and local law enforcement agencies encourage all boaters to avoid alcohol and drugs this busy holiday weekend to ensure everyone’s safety on Iowa waters.

Operation Dry Water, July 4-6, is a national campaign to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water throughout the year. This effort to deter impaired boating and enforce Iowa’s boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws reminds boaters to stay sober and alert, always wear your life jacket, and take a boating safety education course.   

“Recognizing that impaired boating is as dangerous as impaired driving is vital,” said Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa DNR. “Together, we can prevent incidents and save lives."

Alcohol and drugs (legal and illegal) can severely impair a boater's judgment, reaction time and ability to operate a vessel safely. The effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications can be intensified when combined with sun, wind and wave action.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating fatalities. The risk of serious injury is equal for operators and passengers. Intoxicated passengers can easily slip, fall overboard or suffer other life-threatening incidents.

“One-third of all boating fatalities nationally involved alcohol,” explained Stocker. “Many of those victims were innocent bystanders.”

In 2023, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its partners contacted more than 1,487 vessels containing 5,2634 boaters resulting in 531 citations or warnings as part of Operation Dry Water.

The DNR has partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and local police and sheriff’s departments as part of previous Operation Dry Water campaigns.

2023 top areas for BWI arrests

  • Okoboji: 5
  • Clear Lake: 3
  • Saylorville Reservoir: 3
  • Coralville Reservoir: 2
  • Lake Manawa: 2
  • Rathbun Reservoir: 2
  • Mississippi River: 2
  • Total BWI: 27

2022 top areas for BWI arrests

  • Okoboji: 7
  • Coralville Reservoir: 6
  • Mississippi River: 5
  • Missouri River: 5
  • Rathbun Reservoir: 5
  • Total BWI: 36

2021 top areas for BWI arrests

  • Mississippi River: 8
  • Coralville Reservoir: 6
  • Missouri River: 3
  • Okoboji: 3
  • Rathbun Reservoir: 3
  • Total BWI: 31

 2020 top areas for BWI arrests

  • Rathbun Reservoir: 8
  • Mississippi River: 6
  • Coralville Reservoir: 4
  • Okoboji: 2
  • Saylorville Reservoir: 2
  • Total BWI: 26