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California Works to Cap Avoidable Head Injuries

California Works to Cap Avoidable Head Injuries

[ Mon, 2010-08-30 15:18 ]
A family outfitted in helmets at Deer Valley Resort
The state senate is close to passing two measures that will require minors to wear helmets while on the slopes.

In response to rising numbers of snow sport related head injuries, the California Senate recently voted the bill, SB 880, into enrollment. This is the last step before it becomes a law, and if it passes, it will require “a person under 18 years of age to wear a properly fitted and fastened snow sport helmet while operating snow skis or a snowboard while participating in the sport of downhill skiing or snowboarding.” Proposed by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a licensed child psychologist, the law is intended to reduce the amount of unnecessary injuries and deaths on the ski slopes.

Only enforced if police are at the resorts, the law is meant to help parents persuade their children to wear their helmets. A $25 fine for violators is the same penalty as California’s bicycle law and will hopefully deter children from riding unprotected.

“It’s supposed to be used as leverage,” said Adam Keigwin, Senator Yee’s chief of staff. “Parents can tell their kids to wear their helmets because it’s the law,” he said.

A second skier safety law, AB 1652, backs up SB 880. Proposed by Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Scaramento), this bill requires “ski resorts to prepare an annual safety plan, make the plan available to the public, and produce a monthly report with specified details about any fatal incidents at the resort which resulted from a recreational activity."

At Bear Valley Community Hospital, near Big Bear Mountain Resort, the emergency room often sees 75 to 100 snow related injuries per day from the middle of December to the first week in January.

“These young ones think they’re bulletproof,” said Mark Kaliher, an ER nurse at the hospital. “There’s a lot of head trauma coming in, it only takes a blow at 11MPH to cause a concussion,” he said.

California is pioneering this new trend in snow safety, but they’re not alone. The New Jersey Senate recently approved a similar helmet law, S130, which says, “a person under 14 years of age engaged in the activity of downhill skiing shall wear a securely fitted protective helmet.” Voted in by an overwhelming vote of 33-2, violators face the same penalty as California, a $25 fine.