BALTIMORE (WJZAP) — Officials say 2018 has been the deadliest start to the Maryland boating season in six years.
State Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard told news outlets Friday that four boaters have died since April 4.
"If we stay on that pace 2018 will be remembered as the worst boating season in three decades. That's a record we do not want, and it's a deadly trend we will stop," Police superintendent Col. Ken Ziegler said.
Officials say none of the four was wearing a life jacket and one would have provided enough time until help could arrive.
"If you don't have the life jacket on, there's only one way for you to go," Ziegler said.
Boaters should wear the jackets because trying to put one on in an emergency is too risky, especially with cold hands. The temperature under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was 49 F (9 C) shortly before noon Friday, and 60 percent of people who fall into water below 50 F drowned.
"People are anxious to get out on the water, and warm air can make you quickly forget about how dangerously cold the water actually is," Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Sara Wallace said.
As temperatures warm up, and more people head back on the water, authorities also warn of other dangers -- including watching the weather and avoiding alcohol while getting behind the wheel of a vessel.
"When you're out on the water, there's no stop lights, no traffic signals or stop signs, so you really have to be on your toes out there," Ziegler said.
Those found without jackets or other safety equipment will be sent back to land.
Boaters can request to have their boats properly inspected before heading out to sea.
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