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Keeping Free and Fun on the 4th

Cops have safety tips and special rules for the 4th of July in Santa Cruz County.

It's hard to not love the summer's only holiday. July 4 is a time for the four Fs: festivities, fireworks, family and fun.

But there are some special rules for the Fourth of July in Santa Cruz County and law enforcement officers have lots of recommendations about how to safely enjoy the holiday. 

Here's what you need to know:

First off, remember that thousands of out-of-towners flock to the county and cit of Santa Cruz —especially the beaches—for the holiday.

No. 2: there is . That's in Scotts Valley. What you might see at the beach or in your culd-a-sac is all illegal.

Which brings us to the rules for fireworks and beaches, courtesy the Sheriff's Office:

  • Alcohol and glass containers are prohibited on County beaches.
  • Effective July 2-6, anyone found in possession of any fireworks, glass containers or open containers of alcohol on a county beach or park may be fined $1,000.
  • Pack your trash and recycle appropriately.
  • Be environmentally aware, fireworks are destructive to our beaches and forests.

That said, some fireworks are legal only within the city of Watsonville. "Safe and sane" fireworks, which are . Also, some retail stores, like Target, are selling fireworks that aren't regulated as "dangerous" or "safe and sane," according to Watsonville Fire Marshal Rob Ryan. Instead, they are packaged with a State Fire Marshal label (SFM) and with the words "Party Popper" or "Snap Caps / Snappers" in legible print. They are legal, Ryan said.

Ryan had some advice for :

  • Have water available.
  • Do it in an area without weeds or other potentially flammable items.
  • Read instructions and do everything properly.

Fireworks aren't the only draw of the holiday, though. According to California Highway Patrol officer Sarah Jackson, "our county regularly sees a large influx of traffic and tourists along with an increase in alcohol and drug activity."

It's a mixture is "sure to produce collisions," she said.

Here are some things to remember if you're out on the roads during the holiday:

  • Expect travel delays. Extra drivers and ongoing construction will inevitably mean extended travel times. Plan extra time to arrive at your destination. 
  • Lock your doors and take your keys with you. Vehicle theft and burglaries increase as the weather becomes more pleasant.
  • Do not park illegally. Residents and business owners regularly call to report illegally parked vehicles. CHP responds to ticket and/or tow the vehicle, if necessary.
  • Obey all laws and stay focused on the road. Distracted drivers are extremely dangerous to the many drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who will be out enjoying the weather and festivities.
  • Designate a sober driver. Remember, any substance which alters your mood or mental state can impair you to drive, including marijuana, prescription drugs and illicit drug.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • about safe driving practices and commit to enforcing their new driver provisions.

With all of those warnings and reminders in mind, have fun.There are parades from Felton to and at many points in between. Thank a veteran. Bust out the red, white and blue bunting for a patriotic BBQ.

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