The New York State Senate recently voted against a bill that would make it illegal for children under the age of 14 to participate in skiing or snowboarding without the use of a helmet. Although it is estimated that 90% of all children under the age of 10 already wear a helmet, the failure to pass this bill should be considered concerning.
The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) reports on average there are about 40 fatalities and about 500 serious injuries per year.
While the NSAA reports that helmets do not appear to prevent death as much as one may predict (36 of 54 were wearing helmets), the NSAA reports that of 500 serious injuries which include major head trauma, only 30 of the victims were wearing helmets. The data seems to tell us that helmets may be more important in preventing major head trauma than preventing death.
The interesting twist to this story is that helmets ARE mandatory for children in NY state to ride bicycles and other wheeled devices like scooters and skates. “By law, all bicyclists under the age of 14 are required to wear approved bicycle helmets when bicycling or riding as passengers on bicycles in New York State. The maximum penalty for an offense is a $50 fine. However, if a parent can prove that a helmet has been obtained, the fine will be waived.”
What message is the NY leadership sending to the parents of snow sport children?
Children are easily able to exceed speeds of 30 mph while skiing, but may struggle to break 10 mph on a bicycle. Crashes on compact, groomed or even icy trails are comparable to the hardness of concrete in my opinion. These conditions are typical on the East coast.
As an active skier, mountain biker, and parent I not only mandate my children wear helmets at all times, but I also wear one myself. I have experienced falls while skiing when a helmet saved my head. I was hit by a car as a teenager while NOT wearing a helmet and luckily survived relatively unharmed.
I don’t need a law to tell me that wearing a helmet while skiing is a good idea, but the absence of the support of NY legislature confuses and concerns me.