Annapolis, MD – With a possible break in the dreary weather that has plagued the early spring of 2016, Maryland officials are anticipating a busy boating season. Recreational boating in the state’s many waterways is a key component to the local economy. It can also be costly and yield deadly results.
According to statistics compiled by the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP), the 2015 boating season was the deadliest in a generation. Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson said Maryland’s 21 boating-related deaths last year marked a 20-year high. The 20 incidents on the waterways the produced at least one death was double the total for 2014.
According to NRP stats, the top cause for boating accidents in Maryland last year was “wake.” Thomson explained that vessels—boats and even personnel watercraft—can create a “hazardous wake” capable of capsizing other boats. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has established 6-knot speed limit zones in busy areas such as waterways fronted by residential areas are located and more passive boating activities occur. “People don’t always realize how powerful a wake can be,” said Thomson.
Behind wake as the top causes for 2015 boating accidents in the state were alcohol, improper lookout, excessive speed and hazardous waters.
Over the last decade, Maryland has averaged 122 boating injuries a year. Last year the state had three more injuries than the average. Thomson told The BayNet that the injuries include broken bones, cuts, abrasions and burns. “If you can think of a household accident, it can also happen on a boat,” she said.
Some 2015 statistics from NRP that should surprise no one—July, August and September respectively produced the highest total of boating accidents, 90 or 72 percent of the year’s total. Additionally, 64 percent of the year’s boating accidents occurred during the weekends.
Thomson pointed out another stark statistic—18 of the 21 individuals who lost their lives in a boating-related accident in Maryland during 2015 were not wearing life jackets.
“Each year hundreds of people [nationwide] lose their lives and they may still be alive if they had been wearing a life jacket,” stated National Association of State Boating Law Administrators CEO John Johnson. “It’s important that everyone on board wears a life jacket.” According to the National Safe Boating Council, the newer life jackets are far more “comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting, and are much cooler in warmer weather.” The theme of the 2016 North American Safe Boating Campaign is “Wear It!”
There is also a financial incentive for Maryland boaters to play it safer in 2016. According to NRP, the cost for boating accidents in 2015 was approximately $1.08 million.
With the aforementioned weather keeping many of Maryland’s boaters ashore the past few weeks, Thomson said the normally busy Memorial Day weekend brings an added concern that even the most seasoned boaters “might be a little rusty” since they haven’t had the less hectic acclimation period—weekends leading up to the holiday. She urges boaters to do “a stem to stern inspection” of their vessels before venturing from the docks and boat ramps. Boat-owners should check all equipment—including life jackets, radios, flares—everything, to make sure all are in good working order.
While traveling the waterways boat operators should also remember NRP officers are on patrol and they do cite violators. In 2015, NRP issued nearly 225 citations for operating while impaired/operating under the influence. Nearly 500 boaters were cited for having insufficient personal floatation devices on board their vessels. Boaters may also be cited for operating without proper running lights, don’t having registration in possession and operating a vessel without a boating safety certificate.
For more information about boating safety in Maryland, visit NRP’s web site.
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org