INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) reminds that there’s no redo or rewind button in life, and with the holiday weekend marking the unofficial start of boating season, that people need to be practicing safe boating and water safety.
“We just want people to remember some basic safety precautions when you go,” said Capt. Jet Quillen with the IDNR Law Enforcement Division.
The busy waters of Eagle Creek Reservoir on Memorial Day marked a sign of the months to come on waterways across the Hoosier State.
“Today we’ve seen a lot of people out here sail boating and just kind of getting wet, staying cool,” said Kamiah Thomas, who spent the day on the boat with her family. “Just out enjoying the weather with the kayaks and things like that, a lot of pets out, just people enjoying the weather.”
“Actually today looks more busier than normal,” echoed Angela White, who comes to Eagle Creek to kayak.
As the temperatures on the thermometer go up, it’s likely the number of people on boats and recreationally out on the water, will also increase. With that, DNR officials said it’s even more important to practice safety for not only yourself, but everyone around you.
“Always keep your guard up that things can go wrong around the waterways,” said Quillen.
Quillen said the three busiest waterways around central Indiana tend to be Geist Reservoir, Morse Reservoir and Monroe Lake.
Still, Eagle Creek Reservoir garnered some traffic on Monday and people we spoke to said they were excited to see what’s to come in the summer months ahead. They hope for a safe summer for all and agree that it will take everyone to do their part in making that possible.
“This water out here is mighty so we definitely have to be safe you know, wearing the lifejackets, respecting other boaters, especially the kayaks, staying aware of the things that are in the water like logs and other things,” said Thomas.
Boaters are encouraged, according to IDNR, to make sure you familiarize yourself with a body of water before heading out on it and reduce speed in any areas you’re unfamiliar. Officials also remind boaters that it’s important to be aware of any unusual water conditions respective to your size and type of boat, not only for your own safety, but environmental considerations.
Isac Byely said it was his first day of the season out on the water Monday, but his dad had been out since the weather became nicer. Still, he’s familiar with boating and fishing on Eagle Creek and said he feels people do a good job at respecting others’ safety and hope it continues this year.
“Everyone is usually wearing life vests and you know, if people are swimming or kayaking or anything like that, people really just give each other distance,” said Byely. “We’ve never had any issues; I think everyone gives everyone enough room to kind of stay separated.”
When recreating around water, Quillen said it’s important that Hoosiers follow the basic safety tips:
- Discuss the dangers of water with your family and loved ones before going out
- Tell someone where you are going and when you will return
- Go with a buddy
- Do not venture around flooded or fast-moving waterways
- Wear a life jacket
- Keep an extra watchful eye on children
- Avoid alcohol
“There is no law that prohibits having alcohol or consuming alcohol while you’re in a boat. There is a law, it’s similar to the OWI law when you operate a motor vehicle, that you cannot be intoxicated while you’re operating a motorboat on public waterways,” said Quillen.
“I just want to reiterate that drunk boating is drunk driving. We understand that people want to go out and enjoy the water and have a good time, but we need to do that responsibly. It seems like every summer we have incidents across the state that could’ve been avoided if we would’ve done a little better at monitoring our alcohol consumption, being a little safer and keeping that in mind,” Quillen added.
Wave action, sun exposure and wind can magnify effects of alcohol like impaired balance, blurred vision, impaired judgement and slower reaction time, said officials.
DNR officials said the top boating violation conservation officers tend to see in Indiana remains life jacket violations. Per law, you need one wearable life jacket per person on your boat. Every life jacket should be U.S. Coast Guard approved and in good working condition, along with being size-appropriate for the person wearing it.
“Always keep your guard up that things can go wrong around the waterways. People can essentially be there one second and gone the next,” said Quillen.
“Call 911, have something to reach to someone is they are struggling in the water, there is a lot of steps you can take and just knowing that before you go is key,” Quillen added.
DNR officers believe lifejackets could have prevented many of the drowning tragedies in 2019 and 2020 on Indiana’s waterways. In 2020 alone, 61 people died in drownings in Indiana.
“I wish everybody stays safe, you know, adhere to the rules, wear your life jackets. Take your time and respect others and just enjoy, you know,” said Thomas.
Byely said, “I’m just really looking forward to relaxing, spending time on the lake, just catching fish, really.”
For more boating safety, you can visit the department’s resource page with videos and boater safety course links.