N.J. legislator proposes fines for beachgoers who don’t secure umbrellas

South Seaside Park in August 2014. (Justin Auciello for WHYY)

South Seaside Park in August 2014. (Justin Auciello for WHYY)

A new bill in the New Jersey legislature sets fines for beachgoers who don’t properly secure beach umbrellas and vendors that fail to warn the public about the risks of their use.

The pending bill, A-3065, introduced on Feb. 20 by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling prohibits opening a beach umbrella at a public beach during wind speeds of 25 mph or greater unless it is secured to the ground using an auger, sandbag, or another anchoring device.

Any violators could be subject to a civic penalty of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, and $250 for the third or subsequent offense. The government entity with jurisdiction over the public beach would be responsible for collecting and enforcing the penalty.

Houghtaling said he plans to remove the wind speed provision, requiring the use of a fastening device at all times.

“I go to the beach fairly regularly, and my wife is in charge of putting the umbrella down securely into the sand,” he said. “It’s a simple thing to do, but a lot of people don’t want to be bothered with it. The weather at the beach is so unpredictable that the wind can kick up at any time, and you can have 20 umbrellas flying all over the place.”

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The legislation also requires retailers that sell beach umbrellas to post a sign informing consumers of the risks associated with the device. Violators would be subject to a $500 fine.

Last May, New Jersey’s Democratic U.S. senators started investigating flying beach umbrellas.

In a letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker cited data that between 2008 and 2017, more than 31,000 people sought treatment at a hospital due to an umbrella injury.

The senators also offered numerous examples of serious injuries or deaths caused by flying umbrellas, including a British woman whose ankle was impaled on an umbrella at a Seaside Height beach in 2018.

Dominick Solazzo, owner of Shore and More General Store in Seaside Park, says it’s essential to always use a “market-style” umbrella because “they’re the most sturdy in high wind conditions.”

Solazzo offers four rules for umbrella safety:

  • Always use an umbrella anchor.
  • Never leave an umbrella unattended.
  • Angle the umbrella toward the wind direction so the wind doesn’t get under it.
  • When wind speed reaches 25 mph or above, don’t use it.

The Associated Press contributed reporting. 

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