ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 3, 2008) The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) announced they will increase their presence on the states waterways and parks this Fourth of July holiday. July has historically been the month in which the greatest number of boating accidents occur both in Maryland and nationwide.
Operation Big Bang 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.
The NRP says 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 208 boating accidents reported statewide, 47 of which occurred in the month of July. Over the first six months of 2007, there were 76 boating related accidents, 35 accidents involving injuries and 2 fatalities. The first six months of 2008, there have been 86 boating related accidents, 31 accidents involving injuries and 2 fatalities.
Boaters can report unsafe activity or emergencies to the NRP at 1-800-628-9944.
The NRP offered the following advice on holiday safety.
Above all, boaters are asked to always wear a lifejacket and to avoid operating a vessel after drinking alcohol. Boater awareness is critical to safety—when out on the states 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 persons 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 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 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!