LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. – New boating laws have gone into effect just in time for Labor Day weekend, one of the busiest boating weekends of the year. Lake of the Ozarks is a popular weekend getaway destination for St. Louisans so Fox 2/KPLR 11 spoke with Missouri State Highway Patrol about what visitors need to know before arriving at the lake this weekend.
First, all boats must be equipped with life jackets for each person on board, and those life jackets must be accessible in case of an emergency. That law has not changed, but the penalty for violating this law has been reduced from $137 to $25.
“We can write tickets, we can write warnings, we can arrest people for boating while intoxicated, we can educate people," said Sergeant Scott White, Missouri State Highway Patrol. "When it comes down to safety, it is truly an individual responsibility.”
White said they do not assume people intentionally violate this law so the fine serves as a reminder.
Accidents happen but according to Corporal Dean Bartlett with Missouri State Highway Patrol, tragedy can be avoided by wearing a lifejacket.
“Since I’ve been diving for ten years on the water patrol or highway patrol, I have never recovered anybody that was wearing a lifejacket,” Bartlett said.
A new law lowered watercraft fines for speeding in no-wake zones from $137 to $25. Previously, no-wake zones were in effect for coves smaller than 400 feet. The new law proposes no-wake zones in coves between 400 and 800 feet for boats larger than 40 feet.
According to White, the new no-wake law still needs to be opened up for public comment before it can be enforced which could take a few months. While this new law may not affect this trip to the lake, it could be something to watch out for by next summer.
Larger boats create larger waves, which can be destructive and even deadly.
"We do see a lot of damage to docks here at Lake of the Ozarks, and we work a lot of crashes where there is injury due to the large wakes that we do see," said White.
White said it is important for boaters to be alert and communicate with their passengers when a wake is near.
“The (emergency room) here at Lake of the Ozarks sees a lot of those back injuries and neck injuries due to the fact that they’ve been thrown in the air and they come down and they land hard.”
There were no fatal boating accidents on Lake of the Ozarks during Labor Day weekend in 2016 or 2017, White said. Missouri State Highway Patrol hopes to keep that trend going in 2018.