CLEAR LAKE — State, federal, and local law enforcement are combining efforts this weekend to focus on people who are driving their boats while intoxicated.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources boating law administrator Susan Stocker says it’s part of national Operation Dry Water to highlight the hazards of boating under the influence. Stocker says officers will also be looking for other violations, including boaters who aren’t wearing life jackets. She says a life jacket is just as important as wearing a seatbelt in a car. “If you’re in an accident or a car, you potentially and most likely will land on a hard surface but in the water, you’re going to land in the water, and then you’re not going to float,” she says.

There are multiple types of life jackets available and she says the biggest thing is to find one you are comfortable in. “The best life jacket is the one you’re going to wear,” Stocker says. “So there are a lot of comfortable life jackets inflatables, which are allowed for people that are 16 years and older. So they are lightweight and they’re comfortable to wear. We have a lot of what you would call type threes or ski vests which are more comfortable versus the orange horse collar that we all know and very, very uncomfortable that you know we wore as young people.”

She says kids that are 12 years and younger have to wear a life jacket when the boat is underway.  Stocker says kids can operate a boat with proper supervision. “With an adult present, you can have your young person drive and operate a boat. If they are going to operate a boat by themselves. Without an adult, they certainly need to have a boater education certificate in order to do that,”

Stocker says the best thing is that if you’re going to teach your young person how to operate a boat is to be with them and be right next to them. And she says make sure you have the engine cut off switch on your arm — so if something does happen, then the engine the motor will stop automatically.  Stocker says the lakes and rivers will be busy and she advises you to be courteous. “Fourth of July weekend just like Memorial weekend everybody wants to get out there are a lot more boats that people have purchased we’ve got more on the water so be patient and obey the buoys out there because they are the speed limit,” she says.

Stocker says there are approximately 235,000 boats registered in Iowa. She says there could be thousands more kayak and canoes, as they only have to be registered if they are 13 feet or longer.