It’s been a cold, wet spring in Iowa and boat lovers are hoping the upcoming Memorial Day weekend will bring warm weather for the unofficial start of summer. Susan Stocker, the boating law administrator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says boat owners need to take care of the basics before heading for the ramp.

“Make sure before you even leave the driveway that you’ve checked the trailer, the lights, the wheel bearings to make sure that it’s operable and make sure that you’ve had the boat running prior to getting out there on Memorial weekend,” Stocker says. “Make sure you have all of your safety equipment, which includes life jackets for every person on board.” Other safety items that need to be on board include: a horn or whistle and a fire extinguisher.

Stocker says there are no new rules boat owners in Iowa need to be aware of this season. “There hasn’t been any changes in the law,” she says. “The boating regulations that are available are still a valid guide for them to use in order to know the rules and regulations that they need to follow.”

Last year brought a significant increase in Boating While Intoxicated arrests in Iowa with 95 people facing charges. The previous year, there were 55 people arrested for BWI while in 2010, the number was only 40.

Stocker says it’s an issue the DNR is trying to address. “Iowa continues to have a problem with individuals who want to operate a boat and consume too many alcoholic beverages,” she says. “Iowa’s alcohol-related fatalities is over 50% and the national average is only 34% so it is a huge concern for us.”

There are more safe boating tips online at:

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City