Late May begins the annual boating boom and the four-month stretch in which the majority of boating accidents in Maryland occur.
Last Memorial Day weekend, the state recorded eight boating accidents and two fatalities.
“For many people, Memorial Day weekend marks the first time they’ll be on the water since last fall,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent. “It’s important to review procedures, do a bow-to-stern inspection, and make sure all required safety gear is on board and in good working order.”
From today through Memorial Day, NRP officers along with allied agencies will be conducting saturation patrols to intercept impaired boaters and educate the public about best practices.
Maryland boasts a flotilla of more than 178,500 registered powerboats and sailboats, and countless smaller watercraft that ply the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic coastline, and lakes and rivers.
Last year, 12 people died in boating accidents on Maryland waterways, a decrease of two from the 2013 total. Three of the fatalities involved alcohol.
Alcohol was the contributing factor in seven of Maryland’s 130 boating accidents last year. During the same period, NRP officers arrested 145 people for Operating While Intoxicated.
NRP officers wrote 388 tickets last year to boaters not having a sufficient number of life jackets aboard, making it the top maritime safety violation in Maryland. All children under the age of 13 are required to wear a certified life jacket aboard a boat less than 21 feet long.
“Accidents happen too fast on the water to reach for stowed life jackets,” said Johnson. “Most boating fatalities are drownings, and 85 percent of those who drown while boating are not wearing a life jacket.”
NRP reminds boaters:
- Anyone born on or after July 1, 1972, must have with them a boating safety education certificate in order to operate a motorized vessel. A list of boating safety classes is atdnr2.maryland.gov/boating/Pages/classlistings.aspx.
- Never boat alone, or while impaired. The sun, wind and water can take their toll. Alcohol magnifies this fatigue and impairs judgment.
- Check weather and tides before heading out. Storms come up suddenly. Don’t think you can outrun a fast-moving squall. Wait at least 30 minutes before resuming activities after the last clap of thunder or flash of lightning.
- Supervise small children and other individuals who cannot swim.
- Carry a cell phone or have other ways of contacting emergency personnel. Let someone on land know where you are going and when you expect to return.
For more information on Maryland Boating Safety visit dnr2.maryland.gov/Boating/Pages/safety.aspx.