The frequency and severity of head injuries on the slopes can both be reduced through helmet use, according to sponsors of a child ski helmet bill heading to the California governor.

Ski Helmet Bill Goes Back to California Governor

Sacramento, CA – The California Governor will soon again decide whether or not skiers and snowboarders under 18 will need to wear a helmet in the state.

The California State legislature on Monday passed SB 105, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, that would allow local authorities to fine parents of kids skiing or riding without a helmet an amount no more than $25. The law further requires resorts to post descriptions of the law on their slopes, websites and trail maps.

The frequency and severity of head injuries on the slopes can both be reduced through helmet use, according to sponsors of a child ski helmet bill heading to the California governor.
The frequency and severity of head injuries on the slopes can both be reduced through helmet use, according to sponsors of a child ski helmet bill heading to the California governor.

Once received, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown will have 12 days to sign or veto the bill. A similar law that was tied to an Assembly Bill that placed further constraints upon resorts by requiring them to develop and implement safety plans was vetoed last year by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Schwarzenegger actually signed the earlier ski helmet bill but because it was tied to the companion ski resort safety legislation, the helmet bill failed to become law.

The country’s first ski helmet law was enacted in New Jersey earlier this year, but unlike New Jersey, California accounts for a significant share of skier visits in the U.S. Both laws are modeled after statutes requiring minors to wear helmets while bicycling. The California Ski Areas Association (CSAA) has acknowledged its support for Yee’s bill after it became clear that the resorts themselves will not be responsible for enforcement. CSAA officials have stated that like the bike helmet law, they do not anticipate that a ski helmet law will be vigorously enforced by local authorities.

“It is imperative that we do not have another ski season in which children are left at such serious risk,” said Yee. “California’s ski slopes are perhaps the last area of recreation where we do not have basic safety standards in place for children. I am very pleased this bill received broad, bipartisan support today and I look forward to this legislation becoming a national model for other states to follow.

“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,” added Yee, who practices as a child psychologist. “SB 105 will significantly reduce instances of traumatic brain injury or death for such a vulnerable population.”

According to the National Ski Areas Association, 19 of 38 people who died on ski slopes in the 2009-2010 season were not wearing helmets at the time of the injury. Recent studies show that when helmets are used, the incidence of traumatic brain or head injury has been reduced 29 percent to 56 percent.  The Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that more than 7,000 head injuries per year on the slopes in the U.S. could be prevented or reduced in severity by the use of a helmet.  The 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.

Opponents to the proposed law argue that it allows a “nanny state” to place unnecessary constraints upon the personal freedoms of parents to make decisions for their children.

In response, Yee asked,“How can California not set minimum standards for children’s ski safety when the data is so conclusive that helmets save lives and reduce severity of head injuries? 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.”

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