Summer boat safety: La Crosse police train on river

LA CROSSE, (WKBT) — Summertime means the La Crosse Police Department is keeping people safe not only on the streets but also on the rivers.

With rivers right outside your back door, boating is a common summer pastime.

Many people spend time on the water, said La Crosse warden Dale Hochausen, who added, “It seemed like every weekend was the Fourth of July out here.”

But boating is one pastime that comes with several rules.

“There’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it,” said La Crosse Police Sgt. Joe Wiegrefe.

Boat-related accidents are not uncommon in the community.

“We’ve had several boat crashes, a couple of them have involved serious injuries or fatalities,” Wiegrefe said.

Frequent accidents during the summer prompted the department to train new boat patrol officers on what to do if they come across a boating accident.

“We have a water patrol program and we’re adding some new officers to it this year,” Wiegrefe said.

Officers learned different water techniques, high-speed maneuvers  and boating laws.

“They’re navigating the boat around some buoys that we have,” Hochausen said.

One of the reasons officers cite for boating accidents is operating under the influence.

“We definitely try to screen boat operators for that if we stop them for something, just to make sure they don’t seem impaired by alcohol,” Wiegrefe said.

Boaters should always be aware of their surroundings, officers say.

“You know, especially as we get busy weekends out here, people really got to get their heads on a swivel,” Hochausen said.

And remember that speeding laws apply — even on water.

If you’re going to be on water, remember to wear a life jacket that fits and have your registration up to date, officers say.

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