WASHINGTON – Maryland Natural Resources Police hope that aggressive enforcement of boating regulations over the next few days will prevent a repeat of recent Labor Day weekends, which have seen a spike in accidents.
Police said there were eight boating accidents over the holiday weekend last year, up from six accidents over the 2002 Labor Day weekend, two in 2001 and just one in 2000.
During the same period, injuries stemming from holiday boating accidents rose from none in 2000 to three last year.
“People were going too fast and they weren’t looking where they were going,” said Cpl. Ken Turner, spokesman for Maryland Natural Resources Police.
In addition to this being a busy boating weekend, the dove-hunting season started this week. The boaters and hunters will be met by about 200 officers with the department, who will fan across the state this weekend.
Turner said the officers will use small planes, helicopters, boats and marked and unmarked vehicles to make sure boaters and hunters are following the rules.
Besides ticketing speeders this weekend, police will also check boats for proper safety equipment such as flares, fire extinguishers and life jackets — there should be one for each person aboard.
Fines for improper equipment start at about $85. Fines for speeding in waterways are similar to fines for speeding on a highway, Turner said.
He said alcohol is frequently a factor in the accidents, half of which were collisions in 2003.
Ted Schneider, who manages the Deep Creek Restaurant & Marina in Arnold, said another reason for the relatively high number of accidents is improperly trained boat owners.
“All it takes is money to buy a boat,” he said. “I think that’s where the problem lies.”
Schneider said he has noticed more accidents over holiday weekends. At his marina, most of the accidents happen while boaters are docking. Novice boaters don’t know how to slow down, he said, adding that it’s different from driving on a highway.
“The water moves,” he said. “The highway doesn’t.”
-30- CNS 09-03-04