Boat safety big focus for law enforcement heading into holiday weekend

Posted at 6:23 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 19:23:56-04

SMITHVILLE, Mo. — Over the weekend three people from Johnson County died in a boat crash at the Lake of the Ozarks. The tragedy happened at the start of National Safe Boating Week which leads into one of the busiest boating weekends of the season.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. David Campbell said troopers patrol the lakes every weekend in the summer, but with a high volume of boaters expected over Memorial Day, they have all hands on deck.

Campbell said there are 60 to 70 water-related deaths every year in Missouri and about 15 of those have to do with boating, either crashes or capsizing. 

“Usually, every year we have some serious boat accidents or incidents at some lake in Missouri,” said Campbell.

Campbell said he mostly gives warnings out on the lakes and only a few citations, but one of the most concerning things he encounters are drivers with little or no boating experience.

“They may not know any of the boating laws or common courtesy, boater etiquette to stay a safe distance away from other boats,” said Campbell.

Missouri law does require anyone born after 1984 to take a boating education course before they hit the water.

Common laws he sees violated are boaters operating too close to other boats and passengers seated in unsafe areas like up on the edges or on the front of the vessel.

Longtime boater Joe Rode said alcohol is also a big problem out on the water.

Rode keeps his boat out at Smithville Lake, and he said most accidents he has seen involved alcohol.

“The other thing is people just don’t know how to operate a boat,” said Rode.

“I think about half the boats I interact with have alcohol in them. That’s legal, we’re not going to end that,” said Campbell.

But when it comes to the drivers, boating while intoxicated is illegal. The legal limit on the water is the same as it is in your car, 0.08.

Campbell said when it comes to boating a lot of the laws are about being smart.

“It’s just an endless amount of things that could go wrong,” said Campbell.

If you are heading out to the lake over the weekend you may want to pick up a Missouri Boating Laws handbook. Inside you'll find all of the boating laws and a list of safety equipment that you are required to have on your boat. 

You can pick those up at most marinas or stop one of the Missouri State Highway Patrol boats on the water, as they are usually handing them out to boaters they give warnings too.