NRP Launch Aggressive Enforcement Operation on Area Waterways for Holiday Weekend

ANNAPOLIS — July has historically been the month in which the greatest number of boating accidents occur both in Maryland and nationwide. In an effort to educate boaters and keep the boating public safe, the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) today announced they will increase their presence on the state’s waterways and parks this Fourth of July weekend.

Operation Eagle Talon will aggressively target boaters operating in a reckless or negligent manner and/or under the influence of alcohol on the waterways. It will also focus on boaters not maintaining a proper lookout and not having the required safety equipment onboard. Meanwhile, patrols in the parks and forests will target underage alcohol possession and individuals driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as the use of illegal fireworks and other criminal activity.

Last year there were 207 boating accidents reported statewide, 70 of which occurred in the month of July. Over the first five months of 2005, there were 31 boating accidents with 17 injuries and 4 fatalities, two of which involved alcohol. During the first five months of this year there have been 18 boating accidents with 13 injuries and three fatalities.

Boaters are reminded to report unsafe activity or emergencies to the NRP at 1-800-628-9944.

Above all, boaters are asked to always wear a life jacket and to avoid operating a vessel after drinking alcohol. Boater awareness is critical to safety—when out on the state’s waterways, be aware of:

· Your ability to operate a vessel. The sun, wind and sea conditions, as well as the consumption of alcohol, cause fatigue and ultimately limit a person’s ability to operate a vessel safely.

· The capabilities of the vessel. Vessels vary in their design and abilities; just like vehicles, they can respond differently when placed in similar situations.

· Weather conditions. Be aware of existing weather advisories before embarking on any boat trip, and keep in mind weather conditions can change without warning. Do not try to outsmart Mother Nature.

· Maryland boating laws. Pay attention to all signs and speed limits, safety equipment and distance requirements.

· Your physical surroundings and how they relate to other boaters. Boat operators are responsible for the safety of their passengers.

Citizens enjoying Maryland's state parks this holiday weekend can do their part by being respectful and mindful of not only their surroundings, but also other park visitors. Park patrons alone can help keep these natural and historical resources pristine by observing the following:

· Follow the “Leave No Trace” outdoor ethics. In other words, pack it in, pack it out!

· Fires are permitted in the fire rings or grills provided. Fires must be attended at all times.

· Fireworks or other explosive or combustible devices are prohibited.

· While driving in the parks, please watch out for pedestrians and wildlife. Drive gently!

The Maryland Natural Resources Police is the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With an authorized strength of 280 officers and a dedicated staff of civilian and volunteer personnel, the NRP provide a variety of services in addition to conservation and boating law enforcement duties throughout the State of Maryland. These services include homeland security, search and rescue, emergency medical services, education, information and communications services on a round the clock basis. NRP is the only police force aside from the Maryland State Police that has statewide jurisdiction.

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