Boaters warned of high water levels, boating while drunk during Fourth of July weekend

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SMITHVILLE, Mo. — Days of rain have resulted in water levels close to 6 feet higher than normal at Smithville Lake.

That’s why the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Water Division is encouraging people to stay away from shorelines, corners and marked off areas.

“Lately we have been having all the runoff from the streams and the Missouri River. This high water hides a lot of obstructions like tree stumps, shallow corners, that would normally be visible,” said Cpl. Billy Cole with MSHP.

Cole said they’re expecting hundreds of boaters this holiday weekend, and people from all over are already making their way to the lake.

“We’ll be out on the lake today. We were on the lake yesterday. We will probably come back tomorrow and Sunday,” Emily Dearmond said.

The Dearmonds said it’s a tradition to visit the lake every Fourth of July.

“When we come to Kansas City, my parents always come and bring us out to Smithville, to Smithville Lake. We pack a lot of sunscreen,” Dearmond said.

MSHP Water Patrol said they will be patrolling the lake, looking for people disobeying safety rules and boating under the influence laws.

According to National State Boating Laws Administrators, alcohol is the leading cause for fatal boating accidents.

“There is boating while intoxicated just like there is a driving while intoxicated. It’s the same limit, 0.08 blood alcohol, so if you’re too intoxicated to drive a car, you’re too intoxicated to drive a boat,” Cole said. “Drinking alcohol affects you three times on the water, so if you’re used to drinking six beers at home, that would be equivalent to two out here out on the lake.”

Cole said the main goal is to keep everyone safe.

If you plan to be out on the water, Missouri law requires boaters to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board and accessible for each occupant of the boat. Children under the age of seven are required to wear a life jacket whenever they are on a boat.

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