NRP Patrols to Emphasize Safety this July 4 Weekend
The goal this July 4th weekend for the Maryland Natural Resources Police is simple: fewer boating accidents.
The game plan is direct: officers will be going all-out on the State’s waterways, from the Atlantic Ocean to Deep Creek Lake.
“Our officers will be aggressively targeting reckless and negligent boaters and those whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent. “We want to ensure that Maryland families and our visitors have a safe and happy holiday.”
Over the last three July 4th weekends, Maryland averaged 13 boating accidents. Two of the mishaps were fatal.
Last year, an Annapolis resident died after he fell into the Magothy River from a 20-foot boat with more than half-dozen people aboard and could not get back on. In 2011, a Pasadena man died on the Magothy River after he was thrown from a 17-foot skiff when the vessel made a sharp turn.
Historically, more than half of Maryland’s annual total of boating accidents occur in July and August. Last year, Maryland recorded 127 boating accidents that killed 14 and injured 65.
As a result, NRP has stepped up its efforts to enforce safety regulations and reduce the number of impaired boaters in the water. Arrests rose to 206 last year from 124 in 2012.
As a dress rehearsal for July 4, NRP took part last weekend in Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign to curb alcohol- and drug-impaired boating.
Officers arrested nine boaters for operating under the influence, issued 87 tickets for other violations and conducted 674 vessel safety checks. Still, Maryland recorded 15 boating accidents, two of which were alcohol related.
NRP urges boat operators to take several simple steps to ensure the safety of passengers and those in other vessels, paying particular attention to tips specific to watching fireworks displays from a boat:
- Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone on board is wearing a traditional life jacket that fits properly, or an inflatable PFD. Navigating at night can be just as dangerous as boating in inclement weather.
- Designate a sober skipper to stay at the helm all evening and be responsible for returning the boat and its passengers safely to shore after the fireworks display is over.
- Don’t overcrowd the boat with passengers. Heed the boat’s capacity plate on the transom or by the helm, or look up the passenger capacity in the boat’s manual.
- Chart a safe course. July 4th is sometimes the first and only time people venture out on the water after dark. Visual navigation markers boaters rely on during the day may be invisible at night. Choose in advance the route to your fireworks-viewing spot and use a GPS to help you find your way.
- Follow directions issued by NRP, the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and local police as to where you may safely anchor to view the fireworks away from sparks and ash.
- Don’t be in a rush to get home after the fireworks display is over. Let some of the boat traffic clear out before you raise anchor.
For more on boating safety, visit dnr.state.md.us/boating/safety.