Campaign reminds Heartland boaters to stay safe this Memorial Day

Statistics show 31 people died in accidental drownings in Missouri in 2016. Zero of those people were wearing a life jacket/KTVO

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to the summer season, and Heartland families will take to the many rivers and lakes the area has to offer.

Life on the water can be an enjoyable experience for everyone, but it can all go wrong in just the blink of an eye.

National Safe Boating Week kicked off May 19; the same day a fatal boating accident was reported at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. The accident left three people dead and one man in trouble with the law for boating while intoxicated.

"When you're on a boat, the effects of the wind, the waves, the glare off of the water and the sun all affect and enhance the effects of alcohol,” said Susan Stocker, Boating Law Administrator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

According to the Department of Public Safety’s 2017 Missouri Boating Statistics and Drownings report, 16 people were killed and 111 were injured in boating accidents in 2016.

Perhaps the most important, yet, the most ignored safety device while boating is your life jacket.

The same report shows 31 people died in accidental drownings in Missouri in 2016. Zero of those people were wearing a life jacket.

Another hazard mariners often take for granted is how quickly the weather can change, especially during the hot and humid summer months.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Brad Small said keeping track of the anticipated weather conditions can greatly decrease you chances of being put in a bad situation.

"For boating, even if you don't have a warning in effect for your particular location where you're boating, any thunderstorm can produce lightning and lightning is one of the greatest hazards for boaters,” Small said. “Even non-severe thunderstorms can certainly be hazardous for boaters,”

So remember, have a plan and let someone know where you are going and how long you'll be. Keep an eye on the weather, and most of all, get out of the house and enjoy all the outdoor activities the Heartland has to offer.

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