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Should Ski Helmets Be Required?

The idea of requiring helmets is not new – at least in sports and activities other than skiing.  Many jurisdictions require bicycle helmets.  Most downhill mountain bike parks make helmets mandatory as well.  Helmets are required on motorcycles in most jurisdictions and have been for years.  No kids play football without helmets.  Helmets have gradually become the mainstream norm in action sports including skiing. I think anyone participating in a action sport SHOULD wear a helmet.  So, why shouldn’t helmets be required on the hill?  What about for kids?

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This week a bill in New York State that would have required children under 14 to wear helmets when skiing or snowboarding on New York State ski hills failed to move in the New York Assembly after it passed the New York Senate last week.  The bill would have required skiers under 14 to year a helmet or face a $50 fine.  The fine was to be enforced by local law enforcement.  The bill would also required that ski areas have helmets available for sale and rent and to post signs to that effect.

The bill was apparently supported by the Ski Areas Association of New York State.

New Jersey passed a bill in 2011 that required kids 17 and under to wear helmets on the slopes.  New Jersey parents with kids caught shredding the slopes without a helmet could face a $25 dollar fine.  New Jersey is apparently the only state in the Country that currently requires ski helmets.

California Governor Jerry Brown as well as his predecessor Governor Schwarzennegger both vetoed legislation that would have required helmets on kids at California ski areas.  Brown was quoted, “While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state.  Not ever human problem deserves a law.”

It will be interesting to see if this is a trend that spreads.  I would not be surprised to see more states adopt helmet requirements.  In the alternative, we could likely see individual resorts start to mandate helmet use simply as a means to address liability exposure.

In any event, helmet use on the mountain is a really good idea.  Its even more important for kids who have brains that are still developing.  I always ski with a helmet anyway, so a mandate would not really change anything for me.  However, I am always surprised to see people, especially kids without helmets.  I’m even more surprised to see ski patrollers who don’t wear helmets and patrol directors who don’t require them for their staff.

Fortunately helmet use is continuing to increase, with or without mandates.

You can hear an interview with lawmaker in New York who sponsored the bill here:

http://wamc.org/post/senate-passes-ski-helmet-bill-stalls-assembly#stream/0

For more information, please go to:  www.lidsonkids.org

Still not convinced, list to Ted Ligety make the case: