Minnesota DNR to boaters: Stay sober, own your wake and put the phone down

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding residents and visitors to practice safe and sober boating as the 4th of July holiday nears.

DNR conservation officer Arnaud Kpachavi held a news conference Wednesday to review the steps boaters should take to ensure the safety of all on board. Officials said Minnesota’s lakes and rivers have been particularly busy this summer as people get outside to take advantage of all the water-based recreational opportunities the state provides.

The officer said to plan ahead and give yourself extra time, adding that "there are a lot of people who are new to these outdoor activities, so have a little extra patience for people."

This weekend is Operation Dry Water, a water safety and boating safety campaign created by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. This means more law enforcement will be on the water patrolling for drunk boaters.

“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,” Lisa Dugan, DNR Enforcement Division recreation safety outreach coordinator, said in a release.

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 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.