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Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 11:20 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 7:23 a.m. CDT

Busy boat weekend

Boaters heading out for the Labor Day holiday will likely find busy waterways and lower water levels.

Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said boat operators need to operate with caution and to watch for hazards in the water, starting at the boat ramp.

“Use caution when loading and unloading the boat. Back in only as far as necessary to get the boat on and off the trailer to avoid backing into a scour hole or off the end of the ramp,” Stocker said.

The weekend weather forecast is favorable for boaters and combined with a three day weekend should produce heavy boat traffic. Stocker said ramps will likely be busy, placing boating etiquette at a premium.

“Everyone is excited to get on the water,” she said. “Be patient, and when it’s your turn be ready to launch. Courtesy on the water goes a long way in avoiding problems.”

She said an obvious way to prevent problems is for boat operators to avoid alcohol while operating the craft.

“We want boaters to have fun on the water, but we don’t want that fun to end in a boating tragedy. Boaters need to keep safety in mind while on the water,” Stocker said.

Preparing for a safe day on the water begins in the driveway. Make sure to have a properly fitting life jacket for each person on board and that all of the safety equipment, including a properly working fire extinguisher, is on board.

“Remember, life jackets only work when worn,” Stocker said. “Life jackets float, you don’t.”

Boating safety tips:

• Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun, glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.

• High water is impacting certain areas. Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.

• Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.

• Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved throwable device onboard.

• File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.

• Wear your lifejacket - it floats, you don’t.

• Inflatable lifejackets are light weight, comfortable and USCG approved. Wear it.

• Take a boater education course. It has valuable information and many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance.

• Top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels.

2013 Iowa Boating Statistics (through Aug. 16) — 37 BWI arrests; 17 Boating incidents; 2 Fatalities; 5 Property damage; 10 Personal Injures.

2012 Iowa Boating Statistics (through Aug. 8) — 93 BWI arrests; 25 Boating incidents; 8 Fatalities; 8 Property damage.

Mobile support

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources website has undergone various changes and additions recently. With more than 10,000 visitors a day, including 30 percent on mobile devices, the updates were necessary to make the website more accessible.

“It senses if a person is on a mobile device and provides a menu at the bottom that works well with touch-screen devices,” says Brandon Burnett, an IT Specialist with the DNR.

Updates and upgrades include:

- Removal of the drop down menu that did not work well with touch screens

- Page sizes were optimized for faster loading.

- Pulling the site up on a mobile device puts everything into one column, instead of the three that appear on computer screens.

- Landing pages were redesigned to improve navigation.

Optimal text sizes are still being worked on. “Like all websites, it’s a work in progress,” says Burnett.

Another feature added to the site was the License Vendor Search Module. This module allows users to find any of the more than 800 fishing and hunting license vendors in Iowa. Users can search by county, zip code or city.

Searching on a computer gives the hours of the vendor, the address and a map. Searching on a smartphone or tablet allows the user to get directions as well.

Vendors are automatically added to the system as they register to sell licenses.

“It used to be just a PDF file, but now it’s a searchable list,” said Burnett.

The License Vendor Search Modules can be found at:

Fishing: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/FishingLicensesLaw/LicenseVendorSearch.aspx

Hunting: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/HuntingLicensesLaw/LicenseRetailerSearch.aspx

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