Night Swimming Ordinance A Must

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Night Swimming Ordinance A Must

Two men were honored recently by the Ocean City Mayor and Council for the courageous rescue of three swimmers in the middle of the night last summer. The incident drew the council’s attention at the time with some recommending the council should put a law on the books outlawing night swimming before one of the town’s employees or volunteers dies attempting a rescue that should never have to occur in the first place.

Although it may be the last thing on anyone’s mind these days, night swimming is a problem in Ocean City during the summer months. Folks who are inebriated or otherwise not of sound mind think it’s fun to go swimming in the ocean without even knowing the conditions. It’s unclear their rationale, but three visitors found themselves struggling for their lives last summer. One of those heroes in the summer incident, Derrick Simpson, told staff writer Bryan Russo recently he thinks the time has come for a law to be on the books to at least try to prevent people from going in the water ill-advised.

“I think that something should be written into law, but I don’t think that everyone would abide by it, kind of like the speed limit or the seat belt law.  If we did have something like that in place though, even if it stopped one person from entering the ocean and endangering their own lives or the lives of rescue workers, it would be worth it,” Simpson said.

Simpson’s comments are on the mark here. It’s realistic to assume most folks intent on swimming at night will continue to do so, law or no law. However, if it deters one person because it’s against the law, then the new ordinance would be a success.

Last week, to be prepared in the event a similar situation happens in the future, the Ocean City Mayor and Council approved the purchase of night-vision goggles, high-visibility wetsuits and strobe buoys for the Ocean City Fire Department. These are sound purchases and could help prevent a senseless tragedy in the future.

These men and women who save lives are heroic, but we must remember they have families and they should not be risking their lives routinely for those who are not acting in their own best interest. Clearly, swimming at night in unfamiliar waters, as was the case with those rescued last summer, is not a wise decision and showed a disregard for their own safety.

Several members of City Council seemed to support the idea to create an ordinance, and City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained there were a couple of ways to go about it including the creation of a misdemeanor offense in which a suspect or suspects could be arrested and made to appear for trial or the town could create a municipal infraction, which would not be an arresting offense, but rather lead to fines of as much as $1,000. In either case, Ayres suggested the fire and police departments as well as the beach patrol get together to come up with a recommendation for the council.

It’s our hope this is done over the off-season. As it has been said, it will not stop people from entering the ocean at night, but at least an ordinance will publicize the fact it’s illegal and could hit home in the pocketbook. That may be enough to deter a foolish act and subsequently not jeopardize the lives of some of the town’s finest.

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