New York State legislators are again trying to mandate that children younger than age 14 be forced to wear helmets when skiing or snowboarding, and it’s probably a great idea.
The Senate on Monday passed the resolution that it has passed annually since 2014, aimed at protecting youngsters from serious head injuries while on the mountain.
Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, sponsored the legislation and in a press release said it simply makes sense.
“Requiring kids to wear a helmet is a reasonable and smart approach to keeping them safe. As we’ve seen more and more studies on concussions, I am hopeful this will be the year this common-sense bill passes both houses of the Legislature and gets signed into law,” she said.
When I started skiing in the early 1970s, nobody wore a helmet — period. Of course we were using wooden skis and leather lace-up boots too.
But when my kids started skiing, Kirsti in 2000 and Sarah in 2003, both had helmets on. And I followed soon after, feeling a little like a hypocrite for not wearing one. Now it’s just part of the gear.
According to a recent scientific paper published by ATSM International, researchers concluded that potentially serious head injuries dropped as ski helmet usage increased over a period of time from 1995-2012. And increased helmet usage has proven to reduce all head injuries, and especially serious ones, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
As part of the bill, ski areas — which have expressed support for the legislation — would be required to post signs at their information boards and on-site locations where lift tickets are sold notifying guests of the helmet requirements as well as the availability of helmets for rental or purchase. Lift tickets would also include language about the law, according to the release.
Drew Higley at the Sports Page ski shop in Queensbury said he believes most parents are already making their kids wear helmets. He said sales peaked about “eight to 10” years ago when they became almost a fad.
“We don’t sell as many now because people already have them,” he said.
But Higley said he recently spoke with West Mountain ski patroller Matt Levins, who said he’s still amazed at how many skiers and riders still aren’t wearing them.
West Mountain owner Spencer Montgomery is one of them. He has a helmet, and wears it if he’s racing, but doesn’t for recreational skiing.
“I’m old school. Or old fool,” he said with a laugh.
His kids, however, all wear them, and every pair of skis he rents comes with a helmet, he said, adding that he’ll be buying more helmets to rent and sell if the bill becomes law.
Montgomery also spit out statistics saying 70 percent of all skiers and riders wear helmets. Eighty percent of those under 17 wear them and 90 percent of those under 9 do too.
Montgomery said “selfishly as a ski area owner,” he considers it a good bill because it will reduce injuries on the hill.
“Nothing makes you feel worse then when someone gets hurt,” he said.
That said, Montgomery also said it won’t be his job to police the law.
“That onus falls on the parents,” he said.
Dan MacEntee, Little’s communication director, said the bill calls for local police to enforce the law if passed, with a $50 fine for offenders. The fine would be waived, however, if the offender buys or rents a helmet between the time of the offense and the court date, he said. He said he doesn’t see police staking out ski areas for offenders, saying it’s really intended to simply give parents a tool to keep their kids safe.
“The point is to try to get the cool kids who don’t want to mess with their hair to wear one,” he said with a laugh.
The Senate has passed the bill for the past five years, MacEntee said, but it has never gotten out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said he supports it and added that his son wears a helmet. He said he struggles a little, however, to think about how it’ll be enforced, saying laws that aren’t enforced don’t carry a lot of weight.
“But if this bill comes to the floor, how do you vote against it?” he said.