Maryland’s boating season is on the horizon, and the Maryland Natural Resources Police is encouraging Marylanders to take proper precautions to ensure waterway safety and slow the spread of COVID-19.

In 2020, Maryland had 155 reportable boating accidents; 64 of those accidents caused injuries and six were fatal, resulting in a total seven deaths. These numbers are down from the previous year, where Maryland saw 144 reportable boating accidents, 65 injury accidents and 16 fatal accidents resulting in 20 deaths.

“Spring weather means boating season — and I am among the thousands of Marylanders eager to get out on the water,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “With the expected heavy traffic on the waterways, it is vital that we all follow the rules, regulations, and courtesies that keep boating safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

Boaters are recommended to not only follow safe boating practices, but continue following COVID-19 guidance for outdoor recreation.

“Public safety is our agency’s main priority, and to ensure safety, officers will be on boating safety patrol in addition to engaging our waterway users in conversation and education, Maryland Natural Resources Police Superintendent Col. Adrian Baker said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers boating safety classes online and will begin offering in-person instruction in May. NRP reserve officers will also conduct routine safety checks to make sure boaters have all the required equipment they need on board to be safe in the water. Officers will wear personal protective equipment and take all precautions necessary to protect boaters and themselves against COVID-19 transmission.

Maryland Natural Resources Police, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Safe Boating Council, offer these safety tips for boating and social distancing during the 2021 season:

• Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

• File a float plan with a family member or friend with the details of your trip in the event of an emergency.

• Carry all required boating safety equipment such as flares, a fire extinguisher, a horn or whistle, a first aid kit, throwable life jackets, line, etc.

• Check navigation lights prior to your departure.

• Never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

• Avoid distracted boating and travel at safe speeds.

• Have more than one form of communication that works when wet.

• Download the U.S. Coast Guard app and the Maryland AccessDNR app for easy reference information on Maryland’s waterways.