California moves closer to mandatory ski helmet law

Posted By: The Ski Channel on June 30, 2010 5:39 pm

California inched that much closer today towards passing mandatory helmet use for minors participating in skiing and snowboaridng. The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved (7-2) a bill that aims to safeguard children who enjoy California´s alpine sports: skiing and snowboarding.

SB 880, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), would require all children under age 18 to wear helmets while skiing and snowboarding. Furthermore, the bill would require resorts to post signs about the law on trail maps, websites, and other locations throughout the property.

Mirroring the existing guidelines of California´s bicycle helmet law, SB 880 would charge a fine of not more than $25 on the parents of a child who fails to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding.

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Senator Yee is taking the issue of safety one step further, as he is teaming up with Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) who is authoring AB 1652, a bill which would require ski resorts to develop and publish safety plans as well as submit a report to Cal-OSHA after any fatality occurring at the resort. AB 1652 will be considered tomorrow in the Senate Health Committee.

“California´s ski slopes are perhaps the last area of recreation where we do not have basic safety standards in place for children,” said Yee, who is a child psychologist. “Despite repeated warnings from public health experts, professional athletes, and ski resorts, each winter brings news of hundreds of unnecessary tragedies for the failure to wear a helmet. With this legislative package, we can significantly reduce instances of traumatic brain injury or death for such a vulnerable population.”

The Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in their findings they found more than 7,000 head injuries each year on the slopes in the U.S. that could be prevented or reduced in severity by the use of a helmet. That same CPSC study also showed that “for children under 15 years of age, 53 percent of head injuries (approximately 2,600 of the 4,950 head injuries annually) are addressable by use of a helmet.

“When the data is so conclusive that helmets save lives and reduce severity of injuries, California should set minimum standards for safety,” said Yee. “We correctly do not allow parental choice for car seats and seat belts or basic vaccinations for children attending schools; nor should a helmet for kids on ski slopes be optional.”

SB 880 must now be approved by the full Assembly before consideration by the Governor.