For the Cumberland Times-News
ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Maryland Natural Resources Police are urging boaters, park patrons and anyone planning to spend time on the water to make safety their first priority. Two drownings over the weekend bring the total number of water-related deaths to six so far this year, a disturbing trend so early in the season.
“The Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard work tirelessly to educate people about this serious issue year-round — especially during the summer months — yet we continue to lose lives on our waterways,” said O’Malley. “After two drownings this past weekend, I am asking every single Marylander to heed and share this message: Wearing a life preserver when recreating on our waterways can make the difference between life and death, whether you return to your family at the end of the day or not. Even if you are just taking a dip, it is easy to misjudge the depth of the water or strength of the current. By putting yourself at risk, you are also putting friends, family members and bystanders that try to help you at risk. Think about it and act accordingly.”
Maryland had 11 boating deaths last year and 24 in 2011 — nearly double the 10-year average of 13. Nationwide, approximately 75 percent to 80 percent of boating deaths are due to drowning, many of which could have been prevented with the use of a life jacket
In another effort to support water safety in Maryland, NRP and law enforcement partners will be taking part in Operation Dry Water June 28-30, an extensive statewide enforcement effort to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities related to boating under the influence. Officers will aggressively target those driving in a reckless or negligent manner and/or under the influence of alcohol. Officers will also make sure boaters have the required safety equipment on board and are maintaining a proper lookout.
Nationwide, approximately 17 percent of boating fatalities result from alcohol use. Last year in Maryland, 124 alcohol-related charges were placed against boaters. Throughout the summer, NRP officers will be out in force looking for boaters whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08. The maximum penalty for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for the first offense.
“Our officers will be working around the clock this weekend to ensure that Maryland’s waterways are safe for all boaters,” said NRP Col. George Johnson IV. “If we can prevent one person from becoming injured, or get one impaired boater off the water, then we have accomplished our mission.”
For more information, visit operationdrywater.org.
For more information on Maryland Boating Safety visit dnr.maryland.gov/boating/safety.