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Florida pilots report laser pointers as increasing problem

Pointing a laser device at a pilot or other type of driver is a third-degree felony that's punishable by up to five years in prison.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Lasers are becoming an increasing problem for Florida pilots.

Pilots reported a record number of times they were the targets for laser pointers, according to our news partners at the Florida Times-Union. The Federal Aviation Administration received more than 40% more of these reports last year versus 2020.

Pointing a laser device at a pilot or other type of driver is a third-degree felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison, the Times-Union reports. If it hurts someone, the penalty is up to 15 years behind bars. Laser strikes last year reportedly led to $120,000 in fines.

A low-power green laser pointer is said to be visible from two miles away. Pilots blame laser lights for more than 240 injuries since 2010, when recording them began, but no crashes have been blamed for them. Florida's numbers are some of the highest, with aircrafts reportedly targeted at least 630 times, a record high.

Laser lights can temporarily blind pilots, and one professor in the field says it can disrupt a pilot's ability to maintain situational awareness. This can especially be dangerous during critical phases of the flight, such as during the take-off or landing process.

An Orange Park man is facing charges for allegedly shining a laser at a Coast Guard helicopter in September.

Learn more about laser safety from the FAA here.

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