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Blinded by the Light: Laser Pointers Banned in Ocean City

After drivers, pilots and residents complained of the hazards of being blinded by laser pointers, Ocean City banned the sale of the devices on the boardwalk.

After drivers, pilots and residents complained of the hazards of being blinded by laser pointers, Ocean City banned the sale of the devices on the boardwalk. File|Patch
After drivers, pilots and residents complained of the hazards of being blinded by laser pointers, Ocean City banned the sale of the devices on the boardwalk. File|Patch

After one man’s vision was damaged and pilots and bus drivers complained of being temporarily blinded, Ocean City has banned the sale and possession of laser pointers in the Maryland resort town.

The Town Council passed the ban May 19 after receiving hundreds of complaints in recent years, reports WBAL TV. Authorities say the ban is working, with few complaints this summer, other than from vendors who lost money by the end of sales.

A laser beamed into an aircraft can blind the pilot, which led to a federal law making it a crime to aim the beams at aircrafts or their flight paths. A laser pointer’s narrow beam can expand to a few feet in diameter as the light travels from the ground to a plane. This can cause vision problems for pilots and create dangerous situations in the air, said Capt. Sean Cassidy, first vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, according to NBC News.

Ocean City's recent ban on the sale and possession of the devices stems from a police decision to eliminate the threat to police helicopters and to the eyes of public safety and resort employees, officials said.

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro told DelMarva Now that he decided to ask town leaders for a ban this year because police had seen 975 calls for service for laser pointer abuse in a three-year period. He also cited aircraft concerns, and the effects of lasers directed into another person's eyes, as reasons for the ban.

In two cases juvenile males who were caught pointing lasers at state police helicopters were caught and prosecuted, says the newspaper. The boys were sentenced to community service. 

In 2010, Maryland State Police threatened to curtail Medevac service to Ocean City unless something was done about the abuse of laser pointers, says WBAL. The lasers were being directed at public safety helicopters, as well as at boardwalk tram operators and city bus drivers.

Rich Drake of Ocean City had a laser beamed directly into his eye while walking on the Boardwalk one night in 2009, he told DelMarva Now. Afterward, his vision took on a pinkish tone, and altered the colors he was seeing. The effects from the laser lasted more than a year. 

NottinghamFamily July 15, 2014 at 11:16 AM
I'm relieved to see positive action taken with this, I would like to know what actions will be taken as far as ticketing, fines, arrests and prosecution (for serious infringement) and how they plan to enforce this. As far as vendors being upset about the loss of sales, tough. Find other junk to hawk from the Oriental Trading Company.
Gary Elwards July 15, 2014 at 05:41 PM
Ocean City is 36 square miles big. Maryland is 12,407 square miles. Add on all the neighboring states. This is simply "feel good" legislation that won't do any good.

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