Iowa reports drop in boating accidents

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The number of boating accidents on Iowa’s public lakes and rivers this season is the lowest in five years, although four of the accidents — twice as many as usual — resulted in deaths, records show.

A new, stricter blood-alcohol limit in effect since July 1 has resulted in a slight increase in drunken-boating arrests, but figures still aren’t final, said Susan Stocker, who oversees boating law issues for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told the DesMoines Register.

Publicity about the stricter alcohol limits helped keep boating safety in people’s minds, she added. The limit dropped from 0.10 to 0.08, the same as for vehicle drivers.

With the state’s boating season nearing an end, it’s doubtful this year’s statistics will change much as fall sets in and winter arrives, Stocker said.

“It seemed like a quieter year,” she said.

As of last week, 36 boating accidents were recorded this year in Iowa. That’s the fewest since at least 2007; the number has ranged from 38 to 54 the last four years. Currently, Iowa has 247,000 boat registrations.

Stocker said the state’s educational efforts helped.

Another factor: The DNR has beefed up lake patrols over the years, especially at hot spots like the Iowa Great Lakes.

Iowa is among three states tied for the fewest boating fatalities in the nation over the past decade, averaging just over two per year, Stocker said.

This year’s toll — not including a fatality on a private lake in Black Hawk County — is double the average and is the third highest in five years. Five people died in boating accidents last year, and 10 were killed in 2007.

However, the number of boating injuries reported — 18 this year so far — is the fewest in the past five years and down from a high of 35 in 2009.

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