Marine police have wrong priorities

July 27, 1996

THIS LETTER is in response to the July 16 editorial, ''Our dangerous playground.'' While the boating accident on the Middle River was a tragedy, it should be judged on its circumstances, not on the fact that all power-boaters are a menace to our boating tributaries.

My husband and I were in the area of the crash at almost the same time the accident occurred. It was a very windy day, and the waters were extremely rough. For non-boaters, the situation can be compared to driving along I-95 during the blizzard in January; boats needed to be operated with extra caution.

Only the operator of the boat knows the specifics, and will have to live with the fact of having severely injured his wife.

Non-boaters automatically assume that lowering the speed limit or requiring boaters to wear life jackets will lessen accidents. Boats are not equipped with seat belts; if they were, this could lead to boaters being trapped in overturned boats. Accidents will continue to happen because some boaters will break the rules.

We are power-boaters who also own jet skis. On the Sunday in question, we were anchored at Hart and Miller Islands. We observed the marine police stopping many jet skiers who were within the six-mile boundaries at the islands. Your editorial called jet skis ''the biggest menace ever to hit Maryland waterways.''

Apparently you have never been on the water and observed sailboats cutting in front of power boats or jet skis with their sails blowing in the wind only to discover they are actually motoring; they just have their sails up to give the impression that they have the right of way.

Your editorial didn't address the fact that sailboats are a menace to our rivers when they're in a 6-mile-an-hour zone with their sails up, cutting in front of power boats or jet skis.

Perhaps if the marine police weren't at the islands stopping slow-moving jet skis within the speed-limit zone, and were out on the river instead, they could possibly have observed the power-boater operating his boat unsafely and stopped him, thereby preventing an accident. The fact that your statistics show jet skis account for 5 percent of the watercraft but receive 22 percent of the citations indicates where the efforts of marine police are being placed.

Speed limits are not the answer. Safe boating habits are the only answer to preventing accidents. It's the same as the rules of the road on I-95.

Ginny Phillips


Pub Date: 7/27/96

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