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Authorities urge boating safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend

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RALLS COUNTY, Mo. (WGEM) -- Troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Marine Division said a lifejacket is a must have item for those hitting the water this weekend, or any other time you take to the water.

"If you're in a boat over 16 feet in length, you need to have an additional type four throwable device as well," Master Sergeant William Koch said.

He said people also need to make sure their boat is in working order before they take it out, not after.

"Historically we run into a lot of boats that have broken down," Koch said.

"They've sat in storage over the winter, they come out and they have bad gas, a lot of times there are mechanical issues."

He said early checks can save a whole lot of time and trouble.

"Make sure the first time they're starting their boat isn't when they're at the boat ramp with 100 people behind them."

Chicago residents Janan and Steve Jaronsinki said they've been coming to Mark Twain Lake for the last 25 years.

"We see deer, we see eagles every time we come," Janan said. "We love the fishing, the bass, the crappie. We love the watersports."

But they said a big part of their tradition is staying safe.

"We wear life jackets anytime we're on the water. We have fire extinguisher on our boat which is required," Janan said.

"Not drinking on the water is probably the biggest thing and just stay safe distances away," Steve said.

Koch said those looking to drink should be careful as DUI laws on the water are very similar to those on the road.

"If you're out and you decide to drink this weekend, you need to make sure you designate a sober driver for the boat and also for the person who is going to back the truck and trailer into the water too," he said.

Lifejacket laws vary from state to state.

In Missouri, all children under the age of seven are required to wear a lifejacket in a boat at all times unless they are in the cabin of a houseboat or cruiser.

In Iowa, children 12 or under are required to wear a life jacket on any boat while Illinois children 12 and under are required to wear a life jacket if they're on a boat less than 26 feet long.

Koch said those on waterways between states, like the Mississippi River, should always default to the state with the stricter rules.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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