Law officials urge safety on Fourth of July holiday

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2007

Area law enforcement officials are urging caution over theFourth of July holiday, encouraging area revelers to slow down,watch for posted boundaries and keep their fireworks wherefireworks where should go.

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks DistrictFive Capt. Jamie Cummins said his officers will be out on the lakesand streams in force, making sure all safety issues areobserved.

“We’re going to be on all our state lakes and looking at boatingsafety,” Cummins said. “When you have more people out, you tend tohave more trouble in general.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Cummins said the main issues he would remind boaters on statelakes about are being observant of boating laws such as no-wakezones and right-of-way.

“We’d caution people on all lakes to drive their boatscounter-clockwise, which is the law on all state lakes,” he said.”Also, please be careful of driving too fast in no-wake zones,because a no-wake zone is exactly what it says. Usually a no-wakezone is near where there are skiers and swimmers.”

Safety for all boat passengers is also a must, Cummins said. Hecautioned that improperly-fitting flotation devices can bedangerous, and life jackets must be kept on boats for each personaboard.

“Everyone I’ve got is going to be working and enforcing safetyon the lakes, looking for people in the boats to have lifejackets,” he said. “And you have to have children’s life jacket forthe kids. You have to have one to match every person in theboat.”

Cummins said it’s better to ask questions than be ticketed orarrested for being uninformed.

“If anyone has a question about procedure on a state lake,please feel free stop by the office and ask,” he said.

Another issue to be addressed, said Cummins, is the ever-presentissue of ATVs on private property. He cited state law 51-1-4 thatstates the right of the public to use public waterways does notinclude the use of motorized vehicles in the beds of publicwaterways without the written permission of the landowner.

“For people riding creeks and streams, unfortunately somebodyowns the beds of the creeks and streams you’re riding in,” he said.”Just because you can ride a mile up the creek doesn’t mean theywant you on their land a mile down the creek. You cannot ride anATV on private property without permission of the landowner.”

Meanwhile, local law enforcement will also be patrolling theroads as well. Mississippi Highway Patrol Public Affairs OfficerSgt. Rusty Boyd said MHP will be ready to enforce safety on thehighways and interstates.

“We’ve got extra line patrols where officers are assigned astretch of highway for a period of time, we’ll have four or fiveduring the day and some roadblock details after dark,” he said.”We’ll be looking for everything – your traffic violations,impaired drivers and things.”

Boyd said of course the everyday violations are the ones thatmatter the most.

“We’re always looking at speeding and seat belts. What linepatrols are actually targeting is high speed and high-riskdrivers,” he said, adding that drinking and driving is also alarger problem on holidays as well. “It’s probably because peoplegoing to the lake, and having get-togethers and celebrating.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said his men and women willbe manning the roads in the county, making certain the holiday is asafe one for area motorists.

“We’ll be out in force patrolling the county, and we’re urgingcitizens to be careful when they’re driving out in the communitythis holiday,” he said.

Rushing said like the Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Departmentwill be screening for drinking and driving and other violations aswell.

“We’ll be setting some checkpoints to check for drunk driversand other violations,” he said. “So of course, we’re asking peopleto be careful while they’re on the road. And the not drinking anddriving should go without saying, since this is a dry county.”

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said his men and womenwill have their hands full with the newly annexed area and that atthis time there are no plans for roadblocks. However, the city willbe as hard on drinking and driving as it always is.

“Be sure and have a designated driver,” he said. “We’re going tobe out doing our job, trying to keep the accidents and DUIs down,but we’d like to remind citizens of Brookhaven take everything withcaution and be careful on this holiday.”

Henderson reminded city residents that fireworks are illegalinside the city limits, but still reminded them if they’re going toshoot them anywhere, to use caution.

“It’s illegal to shoot fireworks, but if you’re in the countyand using them, general safety is one of the most important thingswith fireworks, especially around children,” he said. “My concernis with all the children who will be around them during thecelebrations of the holiday, parents need to be careful and mindfulof the safety of their children.”

But all the law enforcement officials reminded citizens thatthey are the most powerful weapon in not only crime fighting, butsafety.

“Again, I just want to make sure people remember they can helpto be the eyes and ears of any law enforcement,” he said. “If yousee something going on that needs to be taken care of, you need togive us a call.”

Boyd agreed.

“Just pay close attention to the other drivers, and if you dosee someone who could be impaired or whatever, be sure and let usknow,” he said. “You could help us by letting us know what you seebecause we’re a lot of places, but we can’t be everywhere.”