Boaters Warned Of Increased Patrols Over Holiday Weekend

Boaters Warned Of Increased Patrols Over Holiday Weekend
07 03 Color Page 18 WEB

OCEAN CITY — With thousands of vessels of all shapes and sizes expected to be out on the water this weekend in and around the resort area and all over the state, the Maryland Natural Resources Police this week announced stepped up enforcement on the waterways including the Ocean City area.

According to NRP Superintendent Col. George Johnson IV, the game plan is simple and direct. NRP officers will be out in force from Ocean City to Deep Creek Lake and everywhere in between.

“Maryland has seen eight boating fatalities so far this season and that’s eight too many,” he said. “Our officers will be aggressively targeting reckless and negligent boaters, and those whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs.”

Historically, over half of Maryland’s annual total of boating accidents occurs in July and August, which should come as no surprise considering those are the busy months on the state’s waterways. Last year, Maryland recorded 130 boating accidents that resulted in 12 fatalities and injured 96. With the fatality figure already at eight this year with July and August yet to come, the NRP is planning to be proactive and aggressive.

Last weekend, the NRP conducted its annual Operation Dry Water initiative as kind of a dress rehearsal for what will likely be a bigger weekend on the water around the state this Fourth of July weekend. NRP officers arrested six people for operating under the influence of alcohol and three more for operating under the influence of drugs.

In addition, the NRP issued 87 tickets for other violations and conducted 727 vessel safety checks. Despite the ramped up enforcement efforts, last weekend was one of the deadliest in recent memory on the state’s waterways with four boating accidents resulting in three fatalities. As a result, Johnson promised even stronger enforcement effort this holiday weekend.

“Protecting the public goes to the heart of our mission,” he said. “Alcohol and drugs can have a profound effect on a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Operation Dry Water makes it clear that Maryland has no tolerance for alcohol or drug-impaired boaters.”

Last year, NRP arrests for operating while impaired spiked to 206 from 124 in the prior year. Statistics show alcohol was a factor in 12 percent of the 127 boating accidents recorded in the prior year. The maximum penalty in Maryland for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for a first-offense. Even more important than the potential penalty, however, is the potential to seriously injure or kill others on the water while operating a vessel under the influence.

“Sadly, one boater’s poor decisions can have a ripple effect, harming passengers and people in the water,” said Johnson this week.

With the arrival of the Fourth of July this weekend, the NRP is encouraging Marylanders to enjoy the state’s waterways and offered a few safety tips some of which are specific to the holiday. For example, designate a sober skipper to stay at the helm all evening and be responsible for returning the boat and its passengers safety to shore after fireworks displays are over.

Plan and chart a safe course. For many boaters, the Fourth of July is often the first and only time they venture out on the water after dark. Visible navigation markers relied on during the day might not be as visible at night. Finally, don’t be in a rush to get home after the fireworks are over. Good advice is to let some of the boat traffic clear before raising anchor.

“When it comes to safety, you are the first line of defense,” said Johnson. “By using common sense and following a few simple boating safety rules, you can help NRP make this a safe and happy holiday.”