Iowa DNR

(Des Moines) -- The weather is perfect for a weekend getaway at the lake and the Department of Natural Resources wants to advise boaters of the potential hazards.

Susan Stocker, DNR boating law administrator and education coordinator, says one of the biggest concerns is boating while intoxicated or BWI. Stocker says she wants to make sure people leave the drinks at home.

Stocker said there have already been 16 BWI arrests on the waters in Iowa this year. 2020 saw a reduced number of total arrests with just 25, however Stocker says she expects that number to likely be higher this year.

"In 2020, statewide we had 25 BWI arrests and in 2019 we had 66 BWI arrests and I think that is maybe understandably with what 2020 held regarding COVID and everything going on," Stocker said.

While operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol has similar effects as on the roadway, Stocker said there are also several unique problems that are found on the water.

"Unlike on the roadway (where) you have road markings and what have you, besides the buoy system there are not any lines and/or direction of travel traditionally that boats can travel," Stocker said. "Also when you mix in the factors of the wind, sun, and the glare off the water, the effects of the alcohol are enhanced and that leads to a dangerous situation."

Another potentially dangerous situation with boating is carbon monoxide poisoning. Stocker says we're used to the potential this poisoning in our houses but however it can be found while boating as well.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning is silent, odorless, and truly as deadly as potentially in the house," Stocker said. "So you definitely want to make sure that you have a marine carbon monoxide detector."

Stocker said certain situations will typically pose a greater threat and opportunity for someone to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Well what happens when you have a boat that is idling or going slow, the carbon monoxide is going to hang out right behind the back of the boat and if you have several boats that are in an area and people are swimming around them while they are idling, that is a potential danger for those in water to be effected and be exposed to carbon monoxide," Stoker said.

Stocker says putting children in the front portions of the boat will reduce the risk, as well as making sure to keep some distance from other boats that are idling or moving slowly, and to make sure your party of boaters has consistent access to fresh air. Stocker also says people in the water should avoid holding on to any kind of swim platform or steps on the back of the boat.

Stocker says the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those of dehydration and sea sickness. She says if you feel nauseas, dizzy, weak, or have a headache, make sure to seek immediate medical attention.

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