State officials say stepped-up enforcement is bringing a drop in drunken boating arrests this year. So far this summer, Department of Natural Resources officers have arrested six people, compared to 32 arrests on this date in 2007 and 46 in 2006. Randy Edwards, the D-N-R’s assistant chief of law enforcement, says bad weather deserves some credit but most of the drop-off is thanks to a crack down.
Edwards says, "It’s stabilized and gone down slightly because people are aware that it’s unacceptable social behavior and people are watching and people are quick to complain when they see careless and reckless boat operation and our officers are quick to respond and make arrests." In the past few years, he says alcohol has been a factor in 20 to 30-percent of all boating accidents in Iowa. Edwards says a drunken boating arrest isn’t something anyone wants to experience.
"When we make B-W-I arrests, they are highly publicized. It costs those people a horrific amount of money," he says. "They have to go to court. They have to get an attorney. Their name’s in the paper. It creates a lot of grief for people and their insurance rates will likely go up." Edwards says a first offense will cost a boater a $1,000 fine, a night in jail, and a stint in drunk-driving school. He says if you’re picked up, a detailed check will be done on your background.
"We go back 12 years, so if you had a drunk arrest 11 years ago, if you get arrested tomorrow, that’s going to be your second offense," Edwards says. Plus, the search is nationwide, so if your previous arrest was in 1997 in California, Florida or New York, it’ll still count as a second offense in Iowa. His department continues to urge the legislature to adopt a stricter blood-alcohol level for drunken boating to match the .08 standard for drunk driving.