Families flock to Indiana waterways for Independence Day boating

FISHERS, Ind – Police across Indiana are patrolling lakes and other bodies of water where boaters are out in huge numbers to enjoy a hot and sunny Independence Day.

Parts of Geist Reservoir were already crowded with boats by midday Wednesday.  Fishers Police Lieutenant Mike Janes was among them, keeping a close eye out for any safety violations.

“Doing anything that puts other people in danger can have you end up in jail for the weekend,” Janes said.

Janes said most July 4th violations typically involve boaters playing music too loudly or speeding through no-wake zones.  Those situations normally end with boaters receiving a warning.  But more serious offenses carry tougher penalties.

Specifically, Janes and other officers across the state are on the lookout for reckless boaters putting themselves and others in danger.

“Personal water craft that is coming very close to the back of a boat so they can jump their wake could be considered reckless operation,” Janes said.

Police are also watching for drunk boaters, which is enforced just like driving while intoxicated with a .08 blood alcohol limit.  It also carries the same penalties as a drunk driving offense.

“So if you’re caught out here today operating a boat while intoxicated, you will lose your driving privileges in the state of indiana,” Janes said.

Police are also watching for boaters who violate Indiana boating safety laws.  Those include having a life jacket on board that’s appropriate for each person on a boat.

“So if a boat has four adults and three young children, you can’t have seven adult life vests,” Janes said.  “They have to fit the people that are on the boat.”

Another common violation is failing to have a separate observer on a boat that is towing somebody behind it.

“If you are towing somebody behind your boat, whether they’re on water skis or a tube or a wake board, you have to have a separate observer besides the person operating the boat,” Janes said.

Janes said many situations rely on officers using their own judgement about whether a boater is operating in an unsafe manner.

“There’s no essential speed limit out here,” Janes said.  “Now certainly, Geist has its limitations strictly due to the size of the lake.”

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has useful information about the state’s boating laws and regulations on their website.  

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