Rip current bill seeks ban on Lake Michigan swimming

Efforts are underway to make it illegal to swim in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan when rip current conditions are deemed dangerous.

“Are people so bold so that they think they they're invulnerable, nothing can stop them?” said Ind. Sen. Jim Arnold, (D) LaPorte. “We’ve got to protect people from their own selves sometimes.”

According to the National Weather Service, 78 swimmers have died in Lake Michigan rip currents over the past 10 years, while another 230 had to be rescued.

Sen. Arnold is drafting a bill to legally ban swimming in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan’s Indiana whenever the National Weather Service issued a rip current warning. “What can you do if a person goes into the water during a rip tide warning, rip current warning; what do you do? You tell him to get out of the water, if he refuses, what are you going to do? There's no law that says he's violating anything other than stupidity.”

Sen. Arnold knows better than most—the dangers posed by Lake Michigan. “It’s always been an issue to me. I lost a brother in July of 1959, but it wasn’t a rip current, he drowned in Lake Michigan.”

Five decades later, the dangers posed by the lake, and rip currents are more clearly spelled out--yet too often ignored.

“Beaches that are government owned or have public access, signs would be posted explaining what rip currents are, and that if you enter the water once a rip current tide has been issued then you're subject to arrest,” said Sen. Arnold.

A first offense would be considered a class B infraction and the violator would receive a ticket. The maximum fine would be $1,000.

“I definitely don’t think that there’s enough manpower to really police the beaches like they need to be policed,” said Shawn Kaczmark of Long Beach, upon learning of the proposal. “I really don't think you can legislate the ability for people to be smart and to really treat the lake as being dangerous, I think that's a real hard thing to do and I don’t think that ultimately the ability to give a ticket out for something like that would really add anything of any real value.”

Susan Borman of Michigan City was in favor of the proposal. “I think it’s a really good law, they should pass it. There's been too many people that's been killed and stuff and doesn't even look for the warning signs at all.”

The bill would exempt those who want to surf Lake Michigan provided they wore the proper safety gear.

Lifeguards would not be able to write tickets, but could call the police if they witnessed violations.

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