Iowa’s peak boating season begins May 24 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.
"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 at www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/Boating/BoaterEducation.aspx
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 late spring in the upper Midwest likely kept boats in storage later than normal, 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 2013, 56 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.