Red Flag Fines?

by August 1, 2008 • 13 comments

An issue currently at debate is whether we should ticket beach goers that ignore warnings and enter the water despite red flag and double red flag conditions.

Walton County has been doing it for years and they don’t seem to have as many drownings as we do. Direct correlation? Hard to say. Does it help? I would think so.

Anything that is going to cost money will deter some people. It will never deter all, but it may help. In addition it could be another source of revenue for our county or city.

Sheriff Frank McKeithen said in a statement emailed the News Herald, printed in today’s paper, that the people that enter the water during dangerous conditions are not only endangering themselves, but endangering the officers, beach workers, or bystanders that may end up having to save them. Obvious point, Sheriff, but very good nonetheless. We need to do what we can to not only keep our tourists safe (despite themselves), but our officers and other locals that risk their lives to save others.

With 2 drownings on Wednesday locals are getting fired up again, but the city seems unwilling to make a move. The same article this morning quoted Beach Police Maj. David Humphreys as saying that a ticket system will not work. He said that he’s concerned that stopping people to give them tickets may take away time that the officers have to warn others that may “listen”. Maj., how long does it take your officers to write a ticket? I would submit that warning some could take considerably longer than just writing a ticket.

True, a ticket will not deter all, but it will deter some.

I’ve started a poll and placed it on the upper right (in the sidebar). The question is: Do you think a ticket system will help deter some from entering dangerous waters on Panama City Beach?

I voted yes.

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1 WWW August 1, 2008 at 10:13 am

There may be more to this story…I don’t think the municipality has any authority “in the water”. I think their jurisdiction ends at the beach line. I could be wrong, but I think there is more to the issue than to just start handing out tickets.


2 jamnolfin August 1, 2008 at 10:43 am

I was at my condo at Calypso yesterday in double red flag conditions. There were surers, skimboarders, body surfers, parents with little kids out on the sandbar in kneehigh water. Where do you draw the line? People drown on beaches, we’ve had alot of surf this summer so we’ve had more drownings than normal. They had double red flags Tuesday and the surf wasnt even rideable it was so small. People that want to write tickets for swimming are probably the same !&%#@ that thinks its OK for the Marine Patrol to stop every boat coming into Grand Lagoon and board there boat in the name of safety checks. This is America people leave us the hell alone. Just like the Boston Tea party, one day we will wake up and fight the government. Lets start fining people for swimming and wonder why the tourists dont think the beach is worth it anymore. Damn Gestapo.


3 JAKE August 1, 2008 at 12:29 pm

No authority in the water???? You have got to be kidding me… why are we questioning municipality in the water when lives are at stake? For someone to have the audacity to think that the rules don’t apply to them, but the minute they are in trouble it is expected that someone put their own life at risk to save them is ridiculous!!! Destin has fined people for years, and their tourism has not slowed (but how many drownings have they had this year so far???) – they know the rules and if you break them, you pay the consequences. The mentality of “I paid for this vacation – I am going in the water no matter what” is nothing less than selfish. If municipality is going to be a question then lets just do away with the flags – let everyone use their own best judgement – and when it is too late and someone loses a life then someone will try and sue the county for not letting them know it was dangerous in the first place. I swear – sometimes I think we should change the slogan of “Most Beautiful Beaches in the World” to “Panama City Beach – Where Common Sense is Uncommon”

And for the person who stated above “we’ve had a lot of surf this summer, so we have had more drownings that normal” has totally proven the need for flags and enforcing them. Had these people heeded the warnings of the flags – rough surf or not, they would not have died as a result of going in to the water.

Bottom line, if an officer handed a ticket to someone you love and care about, only to save their life – isn’t it worth it because they were able to come home at the end of the day and complain about it…. as opposed to never coming home at all??? Think about it….


4 jamnolfin August 1, 2008 at 1:07 pm

There is alot of things you can ban to save lives, where does it end? Quit telling people how to live their life. Pay for the lifeguards if you want, warn them, but dont make it an offense. Go to Calypso today with the red flags out and see how many people are in the water and using caution. You really want to fine these people?


5 WWW August 1, 2008 at 2:13 pm

#3…Check your facts. Destin has NEVER “fined” someone for swimming in the water. Please verify before posting. After researching this, I am now curious whether ANYONE in the panhandle is “fining” people for swimming in the gulf in rough waters.

Perhaps Destin swimmers have more common sense to not swim in bad times.



6 WWW August 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Note: Destin is not in Walton County…two different places.


7 correction August 1, 2008 at 3:06 pm

The sheriff in walton county does fine people. Destin does not. Walton does have authority in the water…municipalities do not. They would have to deputize for jurisdiction. Walton can fine people for being in the water with no flotation device. Surfers with a laynard fall into the “flotation device” category.

The bigger question here is the common sense factor.


8 jamnolfin August 1, 2008 at 5:35 pm

The bigger question here is the common sense factor.

Now theres somebody with common sense.


9 jamnolfin August 1, 2008 at 5:43 pm

Hey Jason, Im not going to participate in your poll. Yes it will help, I admit it. I just dont agree with it, so if I vote that will look I agree. My son in law is a Bay County Sheriffs deputy on the east end so I feel I have as much at stake here as anybody. By the way he doesnt want to ticket anybody either, none of the cops do. They just dont want to say it. The ones Ive talked to want lifeguards because of the time constraints that a ticket would cause. Nobody goes to the beach with a ID. In time the cops would ignore the ruleand then get in trouble for not enforcing.


10 Kerry August 5, 2008 at 1:30 pm

I don’t understand how a fine system would work, as the above writer stated, I’m sure many people at the beach do not have IDs, so how would you know they were giving their correct name/address, etc? What about small children? Do you fine the parents or kids, or all?

If they don’t have ID, then what do you do? Haul them off to jail?

If they don’t pay the fine because they don’t live here, how do you collect?

Any fine/ticket you can’t enforce is a worthless waste of time.

Any beach resort is going to have accidents, I don’t know of anyone who judges where they are gong to go to vacation on how many drownings happened the year before.

Increase the number of flags so you can’t miss them, and ask the local news stations to include the flag reports often in the weather updates and promos to increase awareness.

Police people to protect them from danger? Does anyone remember JAWS????


11 bsandyi August 7, 2008 at 8:22 am

Have you never watched the beach programs on TV? It is all about saving people on the Calif. beaches and Miami Beach. Just watch it and you will see if life guards and police work together to save people that are in trouble in the water.
PEOPLE have been dying every year. There are only records since 1970.
Mother of Dead son in Virginia.


12 mac December 14, 2008 at 6:31 am

I’m quite tired of big brother shoving laws down my throat. I’m a grown man, I know my limits very well and fortunately for myself I have been in some very nasty water so I know how to handle myself in life-threatening situations. I think a much better idea would be to fine those that require aid and force them to go to a class teaching them how to act in a worst-case scenario.

I know what I’m doing, I’ve been swimming in oceans since I was 5 (23 now) and I should not be barred from entering the water because of other people’s incompetence. Teach those that need it and let the rest of us enjoy the beach.


13 Rob N December 15, 2008 at 2:25 pm

JAM I get pulled over everytime I go out in my Boat.. One time all the way down in Walton county. That boat cop was 30 miles west of the pass.