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Increased Boat Patrols for Operation Dry Water During July 4th Weekend


Sunny skies, temperatures in the 90s, and Independence Day are all on tap for this weekend.

It likely means there won’t be a shortage of swimmers and boaters getting out on the water.

Last summer saw an influx of people hitting the lakes as a way to get out of the house while still social distancing.

DNR Recreation Warden Justin Bender says it hasn’t slowed down.

“We’re still seeing a lot of numbers,” said Bender.

With more people on the water, the more chances there are of boating accidents.

Twenty-one people died in boating accidents last year. 13 people have died so far this year.

Bender said there are simple ways to prevent accidents.

He recommends reading through theDNR Handbook on boating laws and regulations.

Bender also recommends the boat safety education courses, even for those who are grandfathered in and don’t legally have to take it.

“I just went through with my kids taking a boat safety class as they were taking it. I learned a bunch even as a warden,” he said.

Especially with the holiday weekend, Bender reminds people to avoid drinking and boating.

He says if you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car, you shouldn’t be driving a boat.

Bender also recommends not only having a life jacket with you, but wearing it, especially in small, non-motorized watercraft.

“If for some reason you would get into an emergency situation and you would need it. It’s hard to scramble to get it if it’s somewhere that not on your body or accessible,” said Bender.

Of the 13 boating deaths this year, life jackets were not worn in at least 9 of them, that information is still pending for the other four.

DNR and other recreation law enforcement will be doing extra patrols over the holiday weekend as part of the Operation Dry Water campaign to prevent people from drinking and boating.

“Everybody that’s using the trails or on the lakes, they’re recreating, they’re having fun and we want everybody to have fun, but also be safe,” said Bender.

According to Operation Dry Water, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boating deaths in the U.S.

Last year, alcohol or drugs were involved in 10 out the 21 boating fatalities in Wisconsin.

“If you wouldn’t do it in a vehicle, you probably shouldn’t do it in a boat. Some of those decisions. They can absolutely difference on whether a crash happens or not,” said Bender.

You can be fined up to $300 in Wisconsin for boating under the influence.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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