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Marylanders Urged to Follow Safe Boating Practices As Waters Warm, Holiday Weekend Approaches

Maryland Natural Resources Police officers patrol the Severn River.

Maryland Natural Resources Police officers patrol the Severn River. Department of Natural Resources photo.

As Marylanders become much more active on the state’s waterways, Maryland’s Natural Resources Police is reminding waterway users to understand the state’s boating laws and safety requirements. All boaters, paddlers, swimmers, and others should take steps to ensure their safety before heading out on the water.

In 2023, Maryland recorded 123 boating accidents, including 43 with injuries and 11 that were fatal. In four of the past five years, double-digit fatal boating accidents were reported, and more than 90 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket.

Throughout the season, Natural Resources Police (NRP) officers will be out patrolling the state’s waterways for unsafe, negligent, and impaired boating.

“Keeping people safe on and around the water is one of the most important priorities of the Maryland Natural Resources Police,” NRP Superintendent Orlando D. Lilly said. “Boating is fun for all ages and a great way to enjoy our state’s natural resources. However, we want to remind boaters to wear a life jacket and refrain from drinking while operating boats or other watercraft to keep yourself and others safe.”

Life jackets on display with a Natural Resources Police Boating Safety Campaign Vehicle emblazoned with the words

Life jackets come in a variety of sizes and styles; it’s important to find the right fit to stay safe and compliant with Maryland’s law. Department of Natural Resources photo.

Boaters can protect themselves on the water by wearing life jackets that fit properly, avoiding alcohol or other intoxicants, and following speed and navigation rules.

Alcohol use is a leading cause of recreational boater deaths, as impairment can cause a lapse in judgment, reaction time, balance, and vision. Groups heading out on the water should designate a “sober skipper” – or an operator tasked with staying sober while operating a vessel.

Also important to remember is that bow riding, or sitting on the edge of a moving boat, is dangerous and against the law in Maryland — always ride inside the boat.

Here are some helpful tips for boaters to “know before you go”:

  • Make sure all passengers have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. Children under the age of 13 must wear their life jacket if on a boat less than 21 feet long.
  • File a float plan with a family member or friend, advising them of trip details in the event of an emergency.
  • Carry all required safety equipment such as flares, fire extinguisher, horn or whistle, throwable life preserver, etc.
  • Check to see if your fire extinguisher is charged and your flares are not expired.
  • Never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Familiarize yourself with swimming safety tips.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving dock, and continue to monitor for any upcoming storms.
  • Always have a charged cell phone or marine VHF radio easily accessible.



Anyone born after July 1, 1972 must have a certificate of boating safety education to operate a Maryland registered vessel.

More information about safe boating is available on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website, in both English and Spanish.