The Iowa DNR is pushing increased water patrols this summer, especially during this Memorial Day weekend. It’s part of an attempt to crack down on intoxicated boaters.
“It’s just like driving a car while drunk,’ Erika Billerbeck, a DNR conservation officer, said. “It’s a huge safety concern to make sure people are sober while they’re driving.”
One man thinks the increased patrols are working.
“I haven’t seen any issues,” said Donald Hedlund, a volunteer at the Coralville Lake. “Everyone’s been cooperative and polite. As far as anything illegal, the drinking and driving, I haven’t witnessed any of that.”
Hedlund, a Navy veteran, served in the Middle East and Vietnam until 1966.
Decades later, he’s still spending his time on the water. Now, he makes sure people know the boating rules and regulations while they’re on the MeHaffey Boat Ramp.
“We have some guides back here on federal regulations that I try to pass out if I see somebody that looks like, ‘Hey, I just bought this boat, which end do I put in the water?’” Hedlund said. “I hope they read them and learn as they go.”
The Iowa DNR reported a total of 95 boating while intoxicated arrests in 2012 and that number dropped to 56 in 2013.
DNR officials are hoping to decrease that number even more this year.
““We are seeing a lot more boats that have a designated driver which is not something we used to see,” Billerbeck said. “Since we’ve really been working BWIs hard on the lake, people are starting to pick up on it.”