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Virginia’s Senators. On Parasol Patrol.

Virginia’s Senators. On Parasol Patrol.

Democrats can complain all they like. But the country is in pretty good shape if Virginia’s two senators have nothing better to do with their time than try to solve the nation’s beach umbrella crisis.

A crisis that doesn’t exist.

Perhaps you heard. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have been badgering the Consumer Product Safety Commission to do SOMETHING about the frightening situation with America’s beach umbrellas.

I know. It sounds like a joke. But these two have been pushing hard to regulate the beach umbrella industry ever since someone dangled a shiny object in front of them: a study showing that 2,800 people were injured by umbrellas in the past eight years.

More likely, they saw an opportunity for nanny government to step in and save us from the almost nonexistent hazard of airborne umbrellas. Because God knows, Americans aren’t capable of operating beach umbrellas without guidance from Washington.

Yes, we all know that a woman was killed in Virginia Beach in June of 2016 by a flying beach umbrella. Tragic. But will someone remind our two elected geniuses that the reason the fatality made the national news was because it was a freak accident. Beach police couldn’t recall another case of anyone being seriously injured by a beach umbrella.

News flash: Bad things happen. Laws and regulations can’t protect us from every eventuality.

One death is hardly a reason to cripple an industry with regulations. Or to make umbrellas so expensive that people stop using them and die of melanoma instead.

Oh, and in case the senators are interested, the National Institutes of Health report that 33,000 Americans head to the ER every year due to sunburn. More umbrellas might reduce that alarming number. Making umbrellas more expensive is the exact wrong way to go.

I’m fairly math impaired, but I decided to try to work some numbers to gauge the seriousness of America’s beach umbrella emergency.

Let’s see. If 2,800 people were sent to the emergency room between 2010 and 2018 due to umbrella injuries, that means there were about 350 umbrella accidents a year. 

Seven runaway umbrellas per state.

Think about it. How many beaches are there in the U.S.?

The United States has 12,000 miles of coastlines. And beach umbrellas don’t appear only along the oceans. They’re used on sunny days at lakes. Rivers. And pools.

Michigan has 11,000 islands with beaches along many of them. It also has 2,963 miles of Great Lake beaches. 

Ohio has 50,000 lakes and 312 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. 

New York has 7,600 lakes and 408 miles of Great Lake shoreline. Oh, and New York’s busiest beach is on Long Island - Jones Beach - which hosts between 6 and 9 million visitors a year.

So we have a bodacious number of beaches, probably hundreds of millions of beachgoers and - dare I say it - very few umbrella accidents. Relatively speaking.

But let’s suppose, just for fun, that all 350 beach umbrella calamities last year occurred in Virginia Beach. 

Which they didn’t. 

In fact, I’m not sure a single incident occurred here.

Do you know how many tourists came to Virginia Beach in 2017, the most recent year I could find? According to the city’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city welcomed 19 million visitors.

So if all 350 national umbrella tragedies were clustered in our one little beach town, the percentage of visitors wounded by capricious umbrellas would be .0018. A fraction of a percent.

Shoot, .0018 is even smaller than the percent of Indian blood coursing through Elizabeth Warren’s veins.

If anyone is going to regulate umbrellas it ought to be localities. Not the heavy hand of the feds trying to force the industry to produce heavier umbrellas or vented ones. (Which the experts say are not safer than lightweight ones and would cost more than the inexpensive ones tourists pick up at supermarkets and pharmacies.)

If our dynamic Virginia duo really wants to go all nanny government on summer fun, they should turn their attention to backyard grills. The Washington Post reports that 16,000 Americans annually wind up in the ER for injuries caused by those.

We have an epidemic of drunk guys setting themselves on fire. And our two senators are parading around on parasol patrol.

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