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Ski/snowboard helmet bill passes state senate

June 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Over the years we've seen lawmakers put helmets on people enjoying a number of sports: bicycle riding, rock climbing, skateboarding. They're now looking at skiers and snowboarders. Laws already tell parents that they have to use car seats and get vaccinations for their kids. Modeled after the bicycle-helmet law, helmets required on the slopes may be next.

With summer around the corner, it's tough to think about next winter. But lawmakers are doing just that.

They took a major step forward Tuesday in mandating that kids younger than 18 wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding.

"Nearly 7,000 head injuries per year on the slopes could have been prevented had children worn a helmet. This is really about safety," said state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).

Recent studies compiled by the California Psychological Association show that when helmets are used, the incidence of traumatic brain or head injury is reduced by nearly 30 percent.

Some young snowboarders aren't very happy with being forced to wear helmets. If it's eventually signed into law, kids face a $25 fine.

"A lot of what snowboarding, what makes it great is that you're so free and you can express your creativity a lot," said Julian Sander, a snowboarder. "If you're forced to wear a helmet, it takes away a lot of the riders' creativity."

"You don't usually fall on your head when you're snowboarding. It's more your butt and your back. So I don't really think it'll help that much," said snowboarder Adam Pettigrew.

The proposal barely got enough votes to pass off the senate floor Tuesday.

One Republican, state Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), provided the vote that sent it over the top. And for that, Yee gave the avid skier a helmet.

The rest of the GOP senators, though, think this bill goes too far and considers it one of many so-called "nanny" bills that tell people how to run their lives.

"In reality, we may as well pass a bill that makes all kids in cars at all times wear helmets, if that's what we're trying to somehow create a safe, risk-free society," said state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster).

The helmet proposal got a big boost earlier this year when TV personality Dr. Phil threw his support behind it. He said adults have to protect kids from themselves.

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