SANDY POINT STATE PARK – Vowing to step up enforcement and outreach to protect Maryland’s boating public, the Maryland Natural Resources Police today outlined a campaign that will run weekends through Labor Day.

Seventeen people have died in boating accidents in Maryland so far this year, two short of the record reached in 2011 and 1996.

“The victims ranged in age from 7 to 63. They were boaters, crabbers, paddlers, anglers, casual passengers out for a fun day on the water,” said Lt. Col. Ken Ziegler, acting superintendent of NRP. “The vast majority of them were not wearing life jackets. They all had one thing in common: None of them thought anything bad was going to happen to them that day.”

Ziegler has authorized additional weekend patrols from now through Labor Day weekend to enhance our visibility in high-traffic and problem areas. These patrols —around the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake — are dedicated to boating safety. Officers will be checking for life jackets and other required safety equipment, looking for reckless boaters and targeting alcohol- and drug-impaired operators.

Ziegler was joined at the announcement by Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Allan C. Graves and uniformed representatives from U.S. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Graves, whose department responds to rescue calls in a jurisdiction with more than 25,000 registered boats and more than 500 miles of shoreline, noted that the last three boating deaths this year occurred in Anne Arundel County. He urged people to wear life jackets and follow safe boating practices.

Ziegler stressed, “This safety campaign is not about writing tickets or generating revenue. It is geared toward keeping our citizens and visitors safe so that they can return again and again to enjoy Maryland’s waters, state parks and beaches.”

In addition to the patrols, NRP will boost its presence at the state’s busiest marinas and boat ramps for the next four weekends. Members of NRP’s reserve officers corps will be offering free boat inspections and safety pamphlets at: Assateague State Park; Sandy Point State Park; Dam No. 4 on the Potomac River in Washington County; Trappe Landing on La Trappe Creek in Talbot County; Shad Landing  on the Pocomoke River in Worcester County; the Port of Salisbury on the Wicomico River in Wicomico County, Port Deposit on the Susquehanna River in Cecil County; Oak Creek Landing on the Miles River in Talbot County; and Bellevue Landing on the Tred Avon River in Talbot County.