Should beaches use traffic lights to warn swimmers of dangerous waters?

Georgia county considers using SwimSmart technology

This is what the proposed beach light would look like. (WJXT)

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga – The National Weather Service reports that 79 people died at U.S. beaches last year, and the vast majority of those deaths were blamed on rip currents.

Beach warning flags are used to let people know when it’s not safe to get in the water, but Glynn County (Georgia) is looking to change the way it warns swimmers, according to partner WJXT-TV in Jacksonville,

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The new system would look and operate like a traffic light.

The technology is called SwimSmart, and it’s connected directly to the National Weather Service. So when the NWS makes a beach forecast, the system will update in real-time.

SwimSmart said the lights are visible from thousands of feet away.

The commission will discuss adding the equipment to three different locations on St. Simons Island, including Coast Guard Park, Massengale Park and Gould’s Inlet.

The proposal said the equipment would cost $32,200, plus $7,800 for installation.

If the commission says yes, the annual service cost for each control box would be $1,200.

WJXT-TV spoke to people in Glynn County who say think the lights could be a benefit.

“I kind of don’t even notice the signs. You just walk right by ‘em and don’t look at ‘em. So that’s why I think a light would catch your attention and make you think about it,” said Bill Morgan, who lives in Brunswick.

Laura Gibbs, who lives in St. Simons, also agrees that the new technology would help.

“Change it. I used to be a flight attendant, so for me, the lighting system on an airplane was very helpful and things that we learned for safety is a really good thing to have in place,” Gibbs said. “So now having it for the waterways I think is an added benefit to us.”

The Glynn County Commission is expected to discuss the measure later this week.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.