Beware of Romance Scams 

As Valentine's Day approaches, love is in the air. But don't let Cupid rob you of your common sense – or let scammers take advantage of your affections. Romance scams are a common problem and can cost victims thousands of dollars.

In a romance scam, a criminal individual or syndicate creates a fake identity of an appealing person and makes a profile on social media or on a dating site. Generally they steal photos from an actual person, and may even use details of a real person's life, too. The criminal will then approach someone on social media, or try to match with them on a dating app. From there, they will do everything possible to convince the victim that they have a connection. Eventually, when the victim believes they have fallen in love, the scammer will ask for money.

These criminals put a lot of work into scamming people. They'll pretend to care, and talk about building a life together, and yet they always have an excuse why they can't meet. Many of them pretend to be members of the military, which both gives them an air of respectability and honor, and provides an excuse about why they are not in the country. Scammers are clever manipulators. They'll remember birthdays, they may even send flowers – using some other victim's money – to create an impression of love and devotion.

Sometimes the scam culminates in a simple request for money, but sometimes their plans are even more insidious. Victims have become unwitting pawns in money laundering schemes. Our Economic Crimes Unit found one woman who had funneled more than $1,000,000 of dirty money for these scammers, picking up cash and buying vehicles that she would deliver to some unknown person. She thought she was just helping the man she loved, but in reality she was conspiring with a scammer. Even when our detectives told her that the account was fake and the person she thought she loved wasn't real, she didn't believe it.

If someone approaches you online, be cautious. Limit the amount of information you give them, and find out all you can about them. Is their story consistent or does it change? Do they “love bomb” you, showering you with over-the-top emotion too soon? And most importantly, are they willing to meet? Long distance relationships sometimes work, but even then you should insist on video calls or other ways to confirm that the person is who they claim to be. They say love is blind, but don’t shut your eyes to the truth. You may be in love with someone who doesn’t actually exist, a con artist creating a fake identity to get your money.

In fact, be careful every time someone asks you for money. There are so many scams out there – someone will call pretending to be a law enforcement officer and say you'll be arrested for a warrant unless you pay with bitcoin or gift cards. Or you might get a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild who is in legal trouble and needs you to wire money to them. Scammers try to use your emotions against you to force you to make an unwise decision – whether that emotion is love or fear. Whenever anyone asks you for money take a breath, slow down, and take time to figure out if it's on the up and up.

If you believe someone may be trying to scam you, contact the PCSO at our non-emergency number, 582-6200. If you've already given someone money, don't be embarrassed to come forward. We may be able to recover your money, and keep more people from falling victim to a romance scammer.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Thursday, February 8, 2024 2:00:00 PM

Resolve to Lead the Way to Personal Safety 

If you’ve been on our website, read any of our brochures, or received any correspondence from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) you know that our tagline is “Leading the Way for a Safer Pinellas.” We may be at the forefront, but the citizens of Pinellas County are close by our side. As you make New Year’s resolutions for your health, finances, and personal life, remember to resolve to take steps to reduce the chance of becoming a victim of crime.

We talk a lot about ways to keep yourself safe from scammers who want to part you from your hard-earned money. And we tell you over and over to lock your car doors to prevent auto burglaries and thefts. But your personal safety is even more important than these property crimes. Statistically, Pinellas County is a very safe place and your odds of being personally attacked by a stranger are extremely low. But when you are taking a walk, shopping, in a parking garage, or any of the public places where you could be a victim of a personal attack, you need to reduce your odds of being seen as a target.

The first component of personal safety is awareness. Far too many people move through life with their eyes glued to their phone. When you’re out in the world you should keep your attention on the world around you. Criminals planning to hurt or rob someone are searching for an easy target and will take advantage of your distraction. If you’re deep in what your favorite influencer posted on Instagram you aren’t likely to see the criminal lurking in the shadows. They will prey on your distraction. Beyond that, think about the impression you convey. Are you standing up straight, looking at passers-by, appearing purposeful and confident? If so, you’re less likely to be targeted.

Another important part of maintaining your personal safety is to avoid putting yourself in risky situations in the first place. When you park your car, look for good lighting and security cameras, and don’t park in an isolated area. Plan your ATM use for daylight hours. Walk with a friend. Of course you can’t always avoid riskier situations – sometimes you’ll find yourself alone in a parking garage or walking after dark. But when you do find yourself in these potentially less-safe situations, you need to be cognizant of the risk and try to compensate with awareness and preparedness.

If anything doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to act. It is better to be wrong and safe. If someone approaches you and makes you feel uncomfortable, shout at them to go away. Don’t be shy or worry about looking foolish – yell, scream, and draw attention to the situation. Criminals don’t like attention and will usually retreat if they have an audience or think people will peek out of their windows to investigate. You can also call 911 if a person or situation makes you feel unsafe.

I’m often asked about what to carry for protection. Your choice to carry a weapon or deterrent is a personal one. Pepper spray could be a good option. Some people carry a walking stick or even a golf club if they walk after dark to look like less of a target. Florida’s new permitless carry law means that most people can carry a concealed weapon, but I highly recommend that you learn to be proficient with anything you are carrying. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office offers a free carry concealed weapons (CCW) competency class – visit our website to find out more.

Our members dedicate themselves to keeping you as safe as possible, but you have to do your part too. The resolutions you make now can keep you safer throughout the year.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Monday, January 8, 2024 7:40:00 AM

PCSO Year in Review 

As the year comes to a close I want to take a moment to look back on 2023 at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO). We had some trying times, but overall 2023 has been a year of progress and success.

Our Cold Case Unit has had a great year, using a combination of good, old-fashioned police work combined with cutting edge technology to solve cases. A deep dive into the 1987 homicide of an elderly woman led to new DNA analysis of evidence found at the scene. From there, we made use of the new field of genetic genealogy to search DNA databases and generations-old family records for a lead to the person who matched that DNA. A lot of hard work and a little luck led to the February 2023 arrest of a suspect in Mississippi.

Law enforcement can’t work without the support and cooperation of the community. PCSO has been searching for missing person Robert Helphrey since he vanished in 2006. But despite our best efforts, it took a partnership with Sunshine State Sonar and Recon Dive Recovery, independent volunteer groups who dedicate their free time to searching Florida waterways for missing persons. In collaboration with our Cold Case Unit, they finally located Helphrey’s missing vehicle, with his remains inside, in April 2023. His grieving family finally has closure.

We had a brush with tragedy in March 2023 when K-9 Corporal Matt Aitken was ambushed and shot three times by a suspect he and K-9 partner Taco were tracking. As Taco jumped on the suspect to save his handler, Sergeant Jake Viano, who was following Aitken on the track, confronted and shot the suspect. Aitken is now on the road to a full recovery.

This has been the Year of the Bloodhounds. In 2022, when we were unable to find the cold trail of the suspect responsible for Deputy Michael Hartwick’s death, we called in bloodhounds from a neighboring county. That made me realize we need bloodhounds of our own. Since January we’ve watched ours grow from little wrinkled puppies to the mighty trackers they are today. Now that they are on the street their main job will be to find missing people – children or the elderly who have wandered away. Unlike most bloodhounds, ours have been taught obedience, so instead of jumping up on a scared child or frail elder they’ll quietly sit still to alert their handler.

In August 2023 we were faced with the possibility of a direct hit from the Category 4 Hurricane Idalia. Though its path turned to the north, Pinellas County got significant storm surge flooding. As soon as the storm passed PCSO sprang into action, launching our helicopter and deploying our high water rescue vehicles and every available deputy to help those in danger. Though there was considerable destruction of property, we were fortunate to have no loss of life in Pinellas. Hurricane Idalia was another reminder that we must always be prepared.

PCSO has been prominent in both local and national media this year. Our social media reach has expanded exponentially, and the print and television media have picked up on many of our positive stories. Prominent among them was the exciting moment when two of our marine deputies stopped a high-speed runaway boat by leaping onto it. It was a scene straight out of a movie, and just one small example of the great work our brave and highly trained members do.

This year, to let even more people know about what we do, we launched 56: A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Podcast, to great success. Our guests have varied from Cold Case to K-9, from Forensics to the Jail. I encourage you to follow us on social media, and listen to our podcast. I look forward to 2024 and another year of leading the way for a safer Pinellas.

Posted by Verliz Williams Friday, December 1, 2023 12:01:00 PM

Ride And Run With The Stars 

Join us on Saturday, December 2nd at Fort De Soto Park for Ride And Run With The Stars, the Tampa Bay Area’s largest law enforcement-organized fundraiser. For thirty years the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) has been organizing this fun family day that helps kids in need have a happy holiday season.

You and your family can have a morning of biking, running, walking, and fun while helping others. There are races for all ages and abilities, including a 5K chipped race, a 1-mile fun run, walk, or skate, a 25-mile bike ride, and a 10K family bike ride. When you register for the races you’ll get a long-sleeved event shirt as well as food and giveaways. Prizes are awarded in the chipped 5K race for the best times in different age groups. High quality bicycles are among the prizes.

You’ll also get to meet many members of the PCSO and learn more about our agency. We’ll have some of our specialized vehicles on display, and a K-9 handler will be out to give a demonstration of his four-legged partner’s abilities. As a special treat, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive in a PCSO helicopter to meet the kids and hear all their Christmas wishes. Afterward, every child will get a special treat.

One of the highlights of each year’s Ride And Run With The Stars is the silent auction. Last year we had kayaks, luxury gift baskets, wine and liquor assortments, family excursions, romantic getaways, golf packages, and much more, all donated by local businesses. Of course, all funds raised by the auction go toward helping families in need. As we get closer to the event, you will be able to register online for the silent auction and get a preview of the exciting things to bid on. All bidding is done online, and there are exclusive raffles for those attending the event in person.

Money raised at Ride And Run With The Stars is used for the Christmas Sharing Project. Throughout the year, our deputies identify families that are in need because of economic hardship or who have been victimized by crime. After the event, PCSO members shop for the sponsored families. The kids ask for toys, books, bikes, and skateboards, but the funds also help with much-needed everyday things like school clothes, bedding, or diapers. Every little bit helps for families in need.

Last year Ride And Run With The Stars raised more than $85,000 to help 289 families and a total of 741 children. Civilian members and deputies from all around the agency gathered on a special shopping day to fulfill the kids’ wish lists. Even more children and families were helped when they were adopted by corporate or individual sponsors. Help us make this year even better. Join us for Ride And Run With The Stars and have fun for a good cause.

Registration is now open. You can visit www.rideandrunwiththestars.com for more information.

Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, November 6, 2023 9:14:00 AM

October is Crime Prevention Month 

October is National Crime Prevention Month, and I have one simple message for you that could dramatically reduce the amount of crime in Pinellas County, and the number of illegal firearms in the hands of criminals: lock your car doors. If you follow us on social media or listen to our podcast you know that this is one of the main messages we consistently try to drive home. It is such a simple thing to do, and yet one of the most common crimes today is vehicle burglary of unlocked vehicles.

If you’re lucky, a burglary of your unlocked vehicle might only net the bad guy a handful of quarters and your spare sunglasses. But all too often people leave valuables in their vehicles overnight. You’d be surprised at the things people leave in their unlocked vehicles: wallets, house keys, cash. If your vehicle is unlocked, a criminal may have access to your garage door opener which could let them steal your bikes, tools, or even enter your home.

Many people carry a firearm for personal protection, either on their person or in their vehicle. If you do so, never leave your firearm in your vehicle. Whether it is locked or unlocked, the risk of letting one more firearm out on the street is just too high. Do you want your gun to be used in the commission of a crime, or even turned on you or your family? You need to always secure your firearms – and your vehicle is not secure.

Some worry that if they lock their vehicle, it will just force the burglar to break the window to gain entry. This may sometimes happen but remember that most criminals prefer low-hanging fruit. The usual method for vehicle burglaries is for several youths to drive through a neighborhood, often in a stolen car, and hit as many houses as possible in a short period of time. They’ll move from house to house, checking car doors and taking whatever they can as quickly as they can before moving on to a new neighborhood. If you leave a spare key or if they have other means of starting the car, they might steal your vehicle too. Locking your car door isn’t a guarantee that you won’t be a victim, but it does make it much more likely that the criminal will move on to an easier target. If you don’t leave valuables, purses, or bags in plain sight, there will be nothing to tempt them.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has many methods to combat the explosion of auto burglaries. At the forefront is an information campaign like this one, in print and on social media, to remind people of best practices. You may even find a flyer inside your car someday advising you to keep your doors locked. Sometimes in areas that are targets of repeat burglaries our deputies will check your car door as a public service. You may be shocked to find that someone could access your vehicle, but just be glad it was a deputy and not a bad guy.

When we get a report of vehicle burglaries we can respond with deputies, a K-9 to track the suspect, and even our helicopter that can see the heat signature of a person even on the darkest night. We also have the Habitual Offender Monitoring Unit (HOME) with detectives dedicated to keeping tabs on youth with extensive criminal records, most of which involve auto burglaries and auto theft. We’re doing everything we can to reduce crime, but you need to do your part too. During National Crime Prevention Month and throughout the year, think about the simple things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

Posted by Verliz Williams Friday, October 6, 2023 3:32:00 PM

Make the Safety of Young Pedestrians a Priority 

School is back in session and the roads – and sidewalks – are busier. Make sure you allow extra time on your morning commute as you drive through school zones and watch out for pedestrians. We must do everything we can to keep children safe and you can do your part by brushing up on traffic laws related school busses, school zones, and pedestrians.

Be aware of designated school zones – they will be clearly marked with signage and flashing lights alerting drivers. The speed limit in most local school zones is 15 miles per hour. The slow-speed zone is enforced half an hour before students are expected to arrive at school. Remember, this doesn’t just mean the official start of classes, but may be earlier for breakfast service. The school zone may be active for up to half an hour after class begins. In the afternoon, the school zone is active until 30 minutes after students are released. With elementary, middle, and high schools all starting and ending at different times, you may encounter several different school zones in your daily travels. The fine for speeding in a school zone is double that of speeding in most other areas.

Also remember that you can’t have your cell phone in your hand at all in a school zone – not only is it unsafe, but it is also illegal. This applies to calls, texts, and any other hands-on use of your phone, including navigation. If you must use a device in a school zone, it needs to be completely hands-free. Your full attention needs to be on the road and on pedestrians.

Crossing guards are stationed near schools as well as at intersections on the routes where children walk or bike to school. Crossing guards enter the crosswalk when it is safe to do so and ensure that children only cross the road when all traffic has stopped. Be alert for the crossing guard’s sign and whistle, and follow their directions. They are considered a traffic control device, the same as a stop sign, and their instructions should be followed for the safety of young pedestrians.

If you would like a rewarding part-time job helping to keep children safe, consider becoming a school crossing guard. You will receive uniforms, equipment, and training, and make $22 an hour. Contact Human Resources at 727-582-6208 for more information.

Along with pedestrians, there are many more school busses on the roads. The rules about when to stop for a school bus may seem confusing but they are actually simple. When you are driving behind a bus you must always stop when the bus activates its flashing red lights and displays its STOP signal, no matter how many lanes there are. However, if you are driving in the opposite, oncoming lanes, whether or not you stop depends on the median. If there is a raised median, physical barrier, or unpaved space at least five feet wide between lane directions you do not have to stop. Painted lines and pavement markings are not considered barriers. If that barrier is not there, oncoming traffic must stop. Failure to stop for a school bus carries a hefty fine and repeat offenses can result in a driver’s license suspension.

 

Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, September 11, 2023 7:33:00 AM

Permitless Carry Clarified 

There’s a lot of misinformation about the new permitless carry law here in Florida. The governor signed House Bill 543 on April 3, 2023, which allows Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued concealed weapon license. The law went into effect July 1, 2023.

When you get right down to it, not much has changed. The new law does not give blanket permission for everyone to carry a concealed firearm. People still must meet all the same criteria as if they were getting a concealed weapon license: they must be at least 21 years old and without any felony convictions or any other disqualifying conditions. Nor does it change where a person may legally carry a concealed firearm. They were not, and are still not allowed in schools, colleges, courthouses, government buildings, or bars. Concealed firearms also may not be carried in any business or private property where the owner has prohibited them. The law doesn’t change who is allowed to buy a firearm, nor does it change the laws regarding background checks or the mandatory three-day waiting period required to purchase a firearm.

The law is not open carry. Open carry – wearing or carrying a firearm in such a manner as to be clearly visible – is still not legal in Florida except in very particular circumstances. You may openly carry a firearm only if you are engaged in hunting, fishing, camping, or test or target shooting, or while on the way to or from these activities.

Concealed weapon licenses are still available, and even after the law takes effect some people may wish to get one. People with a concealed weapon license avoid the three-day waiting period when purchasing a firearm. The license also enables people to carry concealed weapons in other states that have a reciprocity agreement with Florida.

While people may not need to have a license when they carry a concealed firearm, they do need to carry identification – and they’re required to provide it to law enforcement upon request.

The training requirements to obtain a concealed weapon license were minimal. In theory, someone could get their license after a classroom portion and then only firing a weapon one time. The new bill provides funds to law enforcement agencies to offer meaningful firearms training to citizens. When you carry a weapon, you are responsible for that weapon and all actions you take with it. Robust, comprehensive, ongoing training is the responsibility of every citizen who owns or carries a firearm to make sure that they keep us more, and not less safe. Do your part by taking education seriously. Learn the law, seek out training to become proficient – because your life, and that of your family, may depend upon it.

You can learn more about the new law at www.pcsoweb.com/permitlesscarry.

Posted by Verliz Williams Wednesday, August 2, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Swimming Safety 

Pinellas County beaches consistently rank among the best beaches in the world, luring swimmers and boaters to our waters. The Florida Gulf Coast is known for its gently sloping shore and calm waters, but weather conditions, currents, or unsafe choices can turn a beautiful day at the beach into a tragedy. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Marine and Environmental Lands Unit gets frequent calls for boaters or swimmers in distress. Planning and preparation are the keys to reducing your risk for drowning at the beach.

It may sound self-evident, but don’t go into the water if you can’t swim. Some people think that if they just wade in the shallow water they’ll be safe as long as they can stand up, but you could be in trouble if a wave catches you off guard or if you step a little bit off a sand bar. Before you know it you’re in over your head. If you can’t swim, you can’t depend on inflatables or pool noodles to keep you safe.

Make sure your child learns how to swim at an early age. This is vital not just for a day at the beach, but in general. Even very young children should be taught how to float and swim in case they tumble into a swimming pool. Never take your eyes off a child in the water. Even if they know how to swim, a child can easily become exhausted or panic, and drown.

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) save lives. If you are in or on the water and are not a strong swimmer, always wear a Coast Guard-approved PFD. Even if you are a strong swimmer, it is still a good idea to wear one when on a boat, kayak, or paddleboard. Be aware that there are different levels of PFDs. Some are designed to keep you afloat if you are conscious, while others are designed to keep your head out of the water even if you are unconscious. Choose the PFD that suits the conditions you’ll be in.

Rip currents are the most significant danger to swimmers. They can be found in passes, near bridges or jetties, and on beaches where the offshore topography creates a channel through which water moves swiftly out to sea. Contrary to popular belief rip currents don’t suck people underwater, but they are powerful, pulling people away from shore at up to eight feet per second. Even a strong swimmer who fights this current can become exhausted and drown trying to swim back to shore. If you are caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Instead swim perpendicular to the current – parallel to the shore – until you escape. If you can’t do this, then calmly float until the current lessens, wave your arms to attract attention, and wait for rescue. Staying calm in a rip current can save your life.

Whether in a pool or at the beach, know what drowning looks like. It’s not like in the movies – usually there’s no splashing and shouting. The signs are more subtle: the person in distress will often have their head tilted back, mouth open near the water level, wide glassy eyes, and a vertical position. If you see these signs, throw the person a floatation device and take other rescue actions.

There are many other safety factors to consider during a visit to the beach, from sunscreen to hydration to securing your valuables – but the most important thing for you to protect is your life and the lives of those you love. Practice good water safety as you enjoy our beautiful beaches.

 

Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, July 3, 2023 3:20:00 PM

Pinellas Should Take a Lesson from Hurricane Ian 

Hurricane Ian was a wake-up call for Pinellas County. Here at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office we watched the storm’s path and prepared for what we thought would be a disastrous landfall. For the general public, though, attitudes were mixed. Some people took the threat very seriously and prepared their homes or evacuated out of the storm’s anticipated path – which originally showed it making a direct hit on Pinellas County. Others, however, minimized the dangers and stayed put or did little in the way of preparation. Floridians can have a dangerously lackadaisical attitude about hurricanes, planning “hurricane parties” instead of evacuating. Here in Pinellas there is even a myth that we are supernaturally protected from major tropical storms by the Tocobaga Indian burial mounds located in Safety Harbor and elsewhere in the county. Pinellas has been lucky, but we must always remember that our luck could run out at any time. Ian’s devastation that happened just a little to the south of us is a demonstration of what could happen here and should be a warning for everyone this hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.

Hurricane Ian approached southwest Florida as a massive Category 5 hurricane and hit Lee County on September 28th as a Category 4, with sustained winds of at least 155 miles per hour and gusts of 216 miles per hour. Despite mandatory evacuations, thousands were stranded by floodwaters, and 149 people died across Florida as a result of Hurricane Ian. More than 2.4 million people lost power, and financial losses are in the tens of billions of dollars. What if that had been us? It easily could have been.

The lesson from Ian is to always take hurricanes seriously. Pinellas County Emergency Management (www.pinellascounty.org/emergency) is your best local resource for hurricane preparedness. They publish an annual Hurricane Preparedness Guide that has updated evacuation zones as well as tips for what to do before, during, and after a hurricane strikes.

If you live on a barrier island, plan ahead and get your Emergency Access Permit now. During and immediately after the storm, the bridges to the barrier islands are closed until the area is safe. When the storm has passed and the evacuation order is lifted, only residents and business owners who have been issued a re-entry pass will be allowed to return to the islands. Deputies stationed at the nine re-entry points will scan the barcode and let the resident pass. Anyone without an access pass will be refused entry. Find out more at www.pcsoweb.com/EmergencyAccessPermit.

You can also sign up for Alert Pinellas, a free emergency notification system that delivers vital information to you by phone call, text, or email. It will send you alerts about severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or flooding, evacuation orders, boil water notices, and more. Visit www.pcsoweb.com/alert-pinellas to sign up.

It is important to remember that if you ignore an evacuation order, you may not have access to any emergency services during the storm because when conditions intensify it is too dangerous for emergency vehicles to be on the roads. County 911 operators have heartbreaking stories of people calling for heart attacks, injuries, or house fires during hurricanes, and having to tell them that no one can respond until the worst of the storm has passed. Don’t put yourselves or your loved ones in danger. Heed evacuation warnings and leave the area or go to a shelter before a hurricane strikes. With preparation, cooperation, and common sense we can be as safe as possible during and after a hurricane strikes.

 

Posted by Verliz Williams Friday, June 9, 2023 9:08:00 AM

Celebrate National Bike Month with Safety 

Pinellas County has miles of beautiful multi-purpose paved trails for bike riders. In addition, many roads have designated bicycle lanes to make your recreational ride or commute safer. With the warm weather here, more bikes are on our roads. As a bicyclist you must take measures to have a safer ride. And as a driver you need to be aware of a bicyclist’s vulnerability. May is National Bike Month, and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) wants you to enjoy your ride safely.

As a bike rider:

Bike riders and passengers under 16 are required to wear a helmet – but it is a good idea for ALL bike riders. Of all bike fatalities in Florida, 40 percent are from traumatic brain injuries. The helmet must be worn properly to be effective: low on the forehead and strapped snugly under the chin.

When you are riding in the road you must obey all traffic control devices, just like cars. Stay in marked lanes, obey lights and stop signs, and signal any turns. Always go in the same direction as traffic.

Florida law states that if you ride your bike at night, you need a headlight that is visible from 500 feet, and a taillight and reflector on the back that are visible from 600 feet.

Be alert – don’t wear headphones that prevent you from hearing traffic and other things around you. Florida statute prohibits operation of a vehicle while wearing headphones – remember, a bicycle counts as a vehicle when on the road. The exception is a headset used with a cell phone that only has sound in one ear.

Be visible and predictable. Don’t dart between vehicles or make maneuvers that a motorist can’t anticipate. Wear bright colors for visibility.

You can get a DUI on a bicycle. Aside from legal considerations, riding a bike while impaired puts you at greater risk for an accident. If you are too impaired to drive, you are too impaired to ride a bicycle. Call a friend, taxi, or utilize a ride share service. You may even be able to get a ride share that can transport your bike too. If not, lock it up and get it when you’re sober.

It is legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, even if there is a bike lane available. When riding on the sidewalk, Pinellas Trail, or other path for pedestrians, wheels yield to feet. Let walkers and runners have the right of way. When passing someone who is on foot, give an audible signal, such as a bell, horn, or say, “Passing on your left.”

As a motorist:

Always be alert for bicyclists and other pedestrians. Slow down in high-pedestrian areas.

Drivers must give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing or driving alongside of them.

Yield to bicyclists and other pedestrians entering crosswalks. Remember that all sides of an intersection are considered crosswalks, whether marked or not. Don’t pass a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk – the stopped car might obscure a pedestrian.

If you come to a turn when there is a bicycle in the bike lane, let them make their turn first.

Posted by Verliz Williams Thursday, May 4, 2023 8:36:00 AM
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