Helmets for everything?
December 12, 2002
Have I become a libertarian? Or a curmudgeon?
State Senator Jackie Speier is at it again. Passing new laws to fix every conceivable problem – regardless of unintended consequences. It may even be a good law, but here’s the latest.
As it stands now, kids under 18 must wear “properly fitted and fastened” bicycle helmets when riding on bicycles on streets or public bicycle paths.
NEW HELMET LAW
Starting Jan. 1, kids under 18 must wear helmets when riding non-motorized scooters and skateboards and while wearing in-line or roller skates on streets and public paths. The law also applies to bicycle passengers. The helmets must meet ASTM or CPSC requirements and be so labeled.
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The punishment for not wearing a helmet is a $25 fine, although on a first offense a violator receives a warning.
Rather remarkably, the law states that parents having control or custody of the minors are jointly responsible for the fine. This means, of course, that parents should follow their youngsters wherever they go making sure they are wearing their helmet or be prepared to pay a fine.
ENFORCEMENT OF HELMET LAW
California law requires the state to reimburse cities and counties and school districts for costs incurred because of mandated new laws like this helmet law, but like most new laws, the legislature specifically waives the reimbursement mechanism, i.e. they ignore the law.
LET’S FEEL GOOD
Here’s another “feel good,” politically correct component of this bill.
Seventy-two and-a-half percent of the fines go to county health departments to be segmented for helmet safety education and assisting low-income families in obtaining approved helmets.
Two and one-half percent of the fine money goes to county treasuries to administer the helmet law, and 25 percent goes to cities or unincorporated areas for helmet safety education and assisting low-income families to buy helmets.
The fact that the fine money (if ever received) barely scratches the surface of the financial cost of the program forced upon cities and counties is immaterial.
I am not sure why I am so cranky about this bill, because it may help to prevent injuries.
It is just that if we solely look at statistics of head injuries, we would all be wearing helmets all day everyday, and where does it stop? I suggest that the cost of the program, including fiscal expenses, use of municipal personnel and criminalization of our youth for not wearing helmets, far outweigh any benefit.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno.