DNR: ‘Make safe boating the hallmark of July 4th fun’

Published 8:36 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2020

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Minnesota’s lakes and rivers have been particularly popular this season as people ignite or reignite their passion for the water and take advantage of abundant opportunities to boat and fish close to home. With a busy Fourth of July weekend on tap, the Department of Natural Resources reminds boaters the best times on the water are those that end safely.

As part of the nationwide Operation Dry Water effort July 3-5, DNR conservation officers and their public safety partners will be working to ensure all boaters safely enjoy their time on the water. A particular focus will be on boat operators who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and have the potential to negatively affect not just their own lives, but also those of other boaters.

“Everyone defines a fun day on the water a little differently, but we can all agree the best days are those that provide lasting positive memories,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “Minnesotans by and large do a great job of keeping themselves and their fellow boaters safe on the water, and conservation officers are committed to making sure that continues.”

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In Minnesota and across the nation, boating under the influence is the leading contributing factor in boating accidents and fatalities. Often, the reason time on the water turns tragic is because the people thrown into the water weren’t wearing a life jacket. Although even one boating-related fatality is too many, it’s worth noting the 2019 boating season in Minnesota saw the fewest fatalities on record.

“Boating is a safe activity, and that’s even more true if people take a few safety precautions before they head out on the water,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR Enforcement Division recreation safety outreach coordinator.

People should keep a few safety tips in mind as they prepare to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday on the water:

Leave the alcoholic beverages on the shore. Drunk boating is the same as drunk driving.

• Wear a life jacket. It’s the best way to stay safe on the water.

• Practice social distancing while boating: stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not from the same household. This is essential on boats as well as at boat launches, fishing piers, and docks. When launching and loading the boat, give others plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before approaching.

Own your wake. Shared resources require shared responsibility. Be aware of the wake your boat creates and the impact it has on shoreline erosion as well as hazards created by large wakes to swimmers, paddlers, and others who are boating.

Enjoy the view and put away the phone. Just as distracted driving is a concern on our roads, distracted boating can lead to accidents and fatalities on our waters.

• Take a boating safety course. The vast majority of boating accidents occur on boats where the operator has not taken a boating safety class.

For more information, visit https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater/index.html.