Authorities encourage boater safety ahead of Labor Day

GRIMES, Iowa — For most Labor Day weekend signals the unofficial end of summer and boating season.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing people for a high volume of boat traffic on the water and boat ramps this weekend.

“This is the big weekend, the last weekend of the season traditionally in Iowa,” said Susan Stocker, the boating law administrator and education coordinator for the DNR. “We want people to be aware that there’s going to be additional extra traffic, so patience on the ramps.”

Stocker said that people on kayaks and canoes this summer have not been wearing/storing life jackets on their vessels this year, in comparison to previous years. Any child under the age of 13 must have a life jacket on while on a boat and there must be a life jacket available for everyone on board.

“Okay wherever somebody got the idea that a canoe and kayak is not a boat, they’re all boats,” said Stocker. “So you have to have a wearable life jacket onboard for every person that’s in the boat.”

Iowa DNR’s website listed boating tips for those seeking the water this Labor Day weekend. The tips are as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Stocker mentioned that boaters need to know the body of water before setting sail and this tip is now more important after heavy rainfall in some areas of the state. The higher water levels means there could be floating debris that could cause boaters trouble; or lower water levels exposing rocks and other hazards in the bottom of lakes, rivers, etc.

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