Being on the water is awesome enough. Who needs alcohol?

Picture this: it is a hot, sunny day in northeast Iowa. You and a couple of friends decide it would be a great day to kick up your heels and go tubing down the local river. You pack up your things; stop at a convenience store for food and drinks, and head down to an outfitter to rent tubes for a little adventure.

The sky, an aquatic blue, and the clouds, so crisp, you swear there has never been such a beautiful day. After wading in the water and situating the cooler on an extra tube, your real adventure begins. It starts off as a nice leisurely float down the river. Birds are flying high above, fish are jumping out of the water near you and everyone has an ice cold beer in hand, watching the scenery as it goes by. Before you know it the once beautiful 89 degree weather starts to feel unbearable so you decide to drink more beer.

This becomes a pattern and soon things don’t seem so relaxing. Everything starts moving by too fast and conversations are hard to understand. Your mouth is constantly dry, you feel dizzy, your heart is beating fast and your breathing has picked up. You try and tell your friends that something does not feel right when you notice they are much farther down the river than you thought.

Jumping out of your tube, you decide to “cool off” and swim to shore. Once in the water, reality hits: you’ve drank too much alcohol.  Your coordination and judgment are off, and you find yourself being taken down the river by the current. Eventually, the current washes you up against a logjam. Tirelessly pulling yourself up onto the logs, you wait for help. Your friends are nowhere in sight and there is no way of contacting anyone for help. As you sit on the logjam you ask yourself, “Was this worth it?”

All too often people talk about having a “good time” on the river. This phrase usually includes drinking a lot of alcohol throughout the day without considering the consequence.   However,                                  

  • “Drinking may be a factor in 80% of boating fatalities.” (National Transportation Safety Board)
  • “Alcohol is involved in an estimated 38% of drowning death.” (NIAAA)
  • “40-50% of all diving injury victims consume alcoholic beverages.” (NIAAA)

This summer, we’re asking you to “Think Before You Sink”. You can have a “good time” just being on the river.  Remember, if you’re over the age of 21, think twice before consuming alcohol on the water. It is important to note: it is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. If you choose to drink, please do so responsibly: 0 drinks for youth under the age of 21, 1 drink for a woman and 2 drinks for a man.

To get this message out, “Think Before You Sink” yard signs and floating key chains are being distributed by local outfitters and the Iowa DNR. Watch for them, talk about them with your friends and family and, hopefully, apply the concept as you canoe, tube or camp in northeast Iowa.

For those who do choose to drink on the water, beginning July 1st, 2011, Iowa joined other states in enforcing a .08 law on the waterways. Prior to this, the legal blood alcohol content a person over the age of 21 could have on the water was 1.0. This law is another way to decrease alcohol related accidents and deaths on the water.

Get out and enjoy the water this summer, but please make the rivers and waterways as safe as possible. Keep all trash contained and out of the water, and bring plenty of water or sports drinks to keep hydrated. Remember that families and youth enjoy the water too. Your actions impact everyone good or bad so while you’re having fun please be responsible.

For more information on the “Think Before You Sink” campaign and the new water BAC laws, or if you would like to help promote the message, please call Katie Bee at (563) 387-1720.

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