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Safety Urged for Maryland Waterway Users This Holiday Weekend

Enhanced Enforcement to Target Impaired Boaters on the Waterways

Photo of police boat on the water

Maryland Natural Resources Police patrol the waters off Sandy Point State Park. Photo by Stephen Badger, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Maryland’s waterways are expected to be crowded this weekend, and officials from federal, state, and local law enforcement and water rescue are working to make sure the fun is not mixed with tragedy.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources joined with the U.S. Coast Guard and Anne Arundel County Fire Department to send this message during a news conference June 29 at Sandy Point State Park. The Maryland Natural Resources Police also announced plans for its annual participation in Operation Dry Water, a nationally coordinated effort to educate boaters about the dangers of boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“Maryland is one of the nation’s leading destinations for water recreation, and the Fourth of July holiday means a lot of people will be on our waterways.” NRP Superintendent Col. Adrian Baker said. “We are prepared once again to enhance our enforcement and public education to ensure safety this holiday weekend.”

Operation Dry Water weekend July 2-4, is the national campaign that involves boater outreach, education, and coordinated enforcement surrounding boating under the influence. Alcohol use continues to be the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and a leading contributor to boating incidents.

Boaters are reminded to stay sober while operating a vessel and to wear a U.S Coast Guard approved life jacket when on or around the water. The risk of serious injury is the same for operators and passengers when drinking. Alcohol impairment can lead to a delay in judgment, reaction time, balance, and vision. 

Additionally, alcohol use by passengers presents a danger regardless of whether the operator is consuming alcohol or not. Intoxicated passengers can easily fall overboard, swim near the propeller, lean over the side, or stand up in small vessels, causing vessels to capsize. The use of both legal and illegal drugs also impairs judgment and reaction time and creates dangerous circumstances while boating.

Other helpful tips to have a safe boating experience include inspecting your vessel. Every Wednesday, NRP reserve officers conduct courtesy boat inspections free of charge. More information regarding these inspections can be found on DNR’s website and social media.

Boaters can learn more about safe boating under the influence by visiting the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website or Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationally by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.