ANNAPOLIS (April 21, 2010) As warm weather opens the boating season in Maryland, the Natural Resources Police—the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources—are urging boaters to exercise due diligence and safety when on the water.
Last year, Maryland had 16 fatal accidents, resulting in 17 deaths, up from a 5-year average of 12 fatal accidents. NRP reports that 16 of the 17 victims were not wearing life vests and stresses that wearing a life jacket could be the single most important factor in preventing boating deaths. Alcohol and drugs were a contributing factor in 7 of the fatal boating accidents.
Boaters should use good judgment, avoid alcohol consumption and take safety precautions before departing, said NRP Colonel George Johnson.
Overall, NRP responded to 299 boating accidents last year, 202 of which resulted in injuries that required treatment more than first aid or had damages to the vessels in excess of $2,000. NRP also responded to an additional 355 boating assist and search or rescue calls last year.
The legislature has beefed up water safety laws aimed at minors this year. Governor Martin OMalley signed legislation April 13, effective immediately, that requires children under 13 to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while underway on a vessel under 21 feet in length. It also requires children under the age of 16 to possess a certificate of boating safety education before they can operate a vessel unless they are supervised by an adult or someone 16 or older who has a boating safety certificate, effective Oct. 1.
The NRP says boaters can help ensure their safety and the safety of others enjoying Marylands waterways by remembering the acronym SAFE:
S Survey or examine your vessels hull, engine and navigational equipment for serviceability. Ensure the hull is sound and free of cracks, holes and defects. Survey your vessels engine performance. Take it to a certified mechanic to ensure the engine is operating properly. Survey and examine all navigational lights, communication, radar, GPS and other electronic equipment to ensure that they are functioning properly.
A Anticipate the needs of the trip prior to leaving the dock. Ensure fuel, clothing, and medical needs are met during the trip. Plan for unexpected events like foul weather or sudden storms.
F File a float plan with a friend or relative. Tell someone where you going, how long you plan to stay, and when to expect you back. This is vital information for rescuers searching for lost or overdue boaters.
E Equipment. Ensure that all safety equipment is in good condition and sufficient quantity for the people on board the vessel. Basic equipment includes correct size and quantity of life jackets, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals (flares etc), and sound producing device such as a whistle or horn.
For more information on safe boating in Maryland, visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/.