While dozens of extra troopers patrol Iowa’s highways to keep drivers safe, officers of the Natural Resources department are out on the waterways, alert for drunk boaters. The DNR’s Rod Slings says it’s a serious problem. Weekend before last they made 5 BWI arrests, and in a special operation last week there were 9 arrests on the Missouri River alone. The agency patrols waterways all over the state in the effort to keep users safe.They’re out on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers as well as federal reservoirs, state parks and county lakes. Officers watch for reckless operation of a vessel, and when they make a stop they’ll check for required safety equipment and also watch the operator for signs of intoxication. And while boating duty might sound like fun, Slings says it has hazards. You can’t just step outside a car to do a field sobriety test, sometimes the officer must make them come to the shore to do the tests, and if a drunk operators decides to tackle an officer, they don’t just wrestle in the ditch — it’s a dangerous situation out on the water. Slings says there are all kinds of dangers facing a drunk boat operator and passengers, you’ve got wind, the vibration of the boat and its moving deck bouncing on waves, plus he says “boats don’t have brakes” and it’s tough to respond to a bad situation, especially when there’s alcohol involved. While the drunk-driving standard for highways just notched down to point-oh-eight, boat operators still abide by a blood-alcohol rule of point-one-oh percent, but Slings says most who are stopped test much higher than that. Even refusing a breath test for B-W-I…boating while intoxicated, can be 500-dollars and loss of boating privileges for a year, and after a third offense it becomes a class “D” felony.
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