This Memorial Day Weekend, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources responded to three fatal incidents; two drownings and a jet-ski collision. It is a reminder to anglers, boaters, and swimmers to follow some basic safety tips to avoid tragedy.

Last year, Maryland had 145 reported boating accidents, six of which were fatal.

In 2020, 21.5 million people visited Maryland state parks for activities like fishing, boating and swimming, a 45% increase from 2019. Credit: Adobe Stock

Lauren Moses, public information officer for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said although the number of incidents is decreasing, some common mistakes keep cropping up. They include not keeping a proper lookout; for someone on the boat to be aware of their surroundings.

Moses emphasized alcohol use is another issue.

“While it’s not illegal to consume an alcoholic beverage while operating a vessel, it is illegal to be intoxicated, and that’s because it impairs your judgment,” Moses explained. “Intoxicated passengers can also easily fall overboard, and it can cause tons of issues.”

Moses advised on waterways, as in other types of emergencies, that people should call 911 as soon as possible. She added it is critical for everyone aboard a boat to wear a life jacket at all times.

The busy summer season will also bring plenty of swimmers to Maryland waterways. Moses stressed it is key for swimmers to stay alert about the weather and the potential for sudden thunderstorms. She recommended following posted signage, particularly in state parks, and only swimming in areas where a lifeguard is on duty.

“Because the waters’ currents are very strong, and we tell people this all the time, regardless of how strong a swimmer you are, you may not be a match for those water currents,” Moses pointed out. “It’s very important to make sure that you do have your life jacket on, you’re obeying what lifeguards are saying, and you are paying attention to the weather.”

The next two Saturdays, June 4 and 11, are license-free fishing days in Maryland waters. You can download the U.S. Coast Guard app and the Maryland AccessDNR app for information on waterway conditions and warnings.

Emily Scott/Maryland News Connection

Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

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