Not wearing a life vest could cost you $100

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many people are trying to cool off today by jumping into the James River for a swim, but not everyone is wearing a life jacket like they should be. You can even be fined $100 for not wearing one.

The signs at city parks are pretty clear - if the river level is above 5 feet, you must have a life jacket on to get in the water. But many people see that more as a suggestion than a requirement.

Head to the James River and you'll see a lot of people in the water, but not a lot of life vests. Anthony Melton is one of many people jumping in the James without a life jacket.

"We saw the signs (saying to wear a life jacket)," Melton said. "We're pretty hefty guys so it doesn't really work for us to wear those vests very comfortably, so we'll take the chance of just swimming in the water."

Firefighters were busy this afternoon responding to several calls of people stuck in the water without a life vest.

Debbie Talman is playing it safe after she had a close call without a life vest during a storm. She even has a life vest for her dog Brody and says she doesn't need the threat of a fine to make her put one on.

"(The) storm came up real quick," Talman said. "(Brody) had his on but I didn't have mine on and had to swim for it, so it got kind of hairy, so I don't forget to do that anymore. I learned my lesson."

Seasoned kayakers like Courtney Larrick and Jimmy Corsini weren't wearing life jackets when we caught up with them Monday morning. They have life vests but only put them on when the current is rough. They say they typically don't wear them because they're uncomfortable.

"We always take them with us," Corsini said. "If we think we're anywhere we think there will be hazards or rocks or something like that, we'd put them on but we're pretty familiar with this section of the river."

Still, $100 is a lot of money, but some are taking advantage of the holiday - assuming the crowds are too big for police to keep up with everyone not wearing a life vest.

"It makes you think a little bit," Melton said. "You see everybody else out here without them so what are they going to do? Fine every single person?"

The James River is expected to stay above 5 feet for the next few days. You can check for yourself by calling the National Weather Service. That number is 646-8228 and press 4.

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