Practice Safe Boating this Holiday 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 Deep Creek Lake to the Atlantic Ocean.
“Our officers will be working extended patrols, often in conjunction with the Coast Guard, to target reckless and negligent boaters and those whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs,” said Natural Resources Police Superintendent Colonel Robert K. “Ken” Ziegler Jr. “Our top priority is to ensure that Maryland families and our visitors have a safe and happy holiday.”
Historically, July and August account for about half of the state’s annual total of boating accidents. For all of last year, Maryland recorded 146 boating accidents that killed 21 people—a 20-year high–and injured 125. Eighteen of the 21 victims were not wearing a life jacket. This year, none of the five victims was wearing a life jacket.
Last weekend, as a dress rehearsal for July 4, officers took part in Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign to curb alcohol- and drug-impaired boating. Eleven boaters were arrested for operating under the influence. Officers issued 192 tickets for other violations and conducted 1,507 safety checks. Still, Maryland recorded 10 boating accidents and two Jet Ski mishaps.
The department urges boat operators to take several simple steps to ensure the safety of passengers and those in other vessels, especially while 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 life vest. 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.
- 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 vessel’s manual.
- Chart a safe course. Independence Day is sometimes the first and only time people venture out on the water after dark. Visual navigation markers that boaters rely on during the day may not be visible at night. Chart your route to a fireworks display in advance and use a GPS unit to help you find your way.
- Follow directions issued by national, state 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.