The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that would make it illegal for kids to ride boats on Iowa lakes, rivers or streams without wearing a life vest.

Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, says under current federal law, all children under the age of 13 must wear a personal floatation device — a life jacket — on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers which are controlled by the feds. The bill just extends that rule to the inland waters of Iowa, according to Hancock. He says statistics show life vests save lives. “And that’s what this bill is all about…protecting the lives of young children while they’re on the waters of our great state,” Hancock says.

Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, says backers like him have been trying to get the bill passed for at least five years. “A lot of people are confused. They can be at Red Rock Lake (a federal reservoir) and they have to wear a floatation device. If they’re on Big Creek Lake (a state-owned lake), which is right next door, they don’t have to,” Dearden says. “This just makes it uniform. It’s going to save some kids’ lives.”

If the bill becomes law, officers patroling Iowa lakes and rivers would hand out warnings for a year if they catch kids not wearing life jackets — but after a year, a $25 fine would kick in. The bill passed the Senate on a 46-1 vote. The bill must clear a committee in the House by Friday or the proposl will die again this year.