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DNR Pushes Life Jacket Safety After Increased Drownings

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) -- Less than a month into summer and there have been several drownings on Minnesota waterways. The latest numbers from the Department of Natural Resources show 25 drownings since May, six of which happened on boats. In every boating case, the victim wasn't wearing a life jacket.

At the public access on Prior Lake, many families are launching into a day on the water.

"It's so hot, so it's good to go out and get cool," said Becky Moldenhauer, who was boating with her family on Prior Lake.

Their thoughts are on the upcoming fun, but just a few docks away, Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Adam Block is only thinking safety.

Block is checking to make sure boaters are following life jacket laws. With the number of drownings this year, he feels his job carries even more importance.

"You get tired of reading the reports and you want to go check more boats to make sure more people are safe," said Block.

It's the law to have one life jacket per person when you're on the water. Kids under the age of 10 are required to wear the life preserver. The fine is $150 if you're caught without.

Despite an already deadly summer, Adam still finds violations.

"It's frustrating when you stop a boat that's several life jackets short," said Block.

On the water, Sunday, one boater didn't have a throw flotation, which is required on boats over 16 feet. He walked away with a warning.

Block also says many paddle boarders aren't aware they need a life jacket. The law also covers paddle boards and kayaks.

There are three instances when children under the age of 10 don't need to wear a life jacket on the water: When they're in the boat's cabin, when the boat is anchored and used as a swimming platform or on a charter boat with a licensed captain.

There is one incentive to wear those life preservers at all times, if the DNR sees a child wearing that flotation device, they get a free coupon for ice cream at Dairy Queen.

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