Bill requiring ski helmets is vetoed by California governor

Half of all skiing-related deaths are caused by head injuries. The Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that over 7,000 head injuries occurring on U.S. ski slopes every year could be prevented or minimized if skiers would wear helmets. In fact, when skiers wear helmets, the incidence of traumatic brain or head injury goes down 29 percent.

Sadly, according to the National Ski Areas Association, 19 of 38 people who died on ski slopes during the 2009-2010 season were not wearing helmets at the time of the Michigan injury lawsuit.

In order to reduce these tragedies, State Senator Leeland Yee (D-San Francisco), who is a child psychologist, sponsored a bill this year called SB105. If passed into law, the bill would have required all skiers and snowboarders under the age of 18 to wear helmets. In addition, ski resorts would have been required to include reminders about the law on trail maps, brochures and websites, along with posting notices throughout their properties. If minors were found skiing or snowboarding without helmets, their parents could have been fined.

The bill had the strong support of the California Psychological Association and other advocacy groups interested in brain injury prevention. Unfortunately, Governor Brown was unwilling to sign the bill into law, just as Governor Schwarzenegger had been with a previous version of the bill.

“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,” Brown wrote in defense of his veto. “Not every human problem deserves a law. Parents have the ability and responsibility to make good choices for their children.”

Yee and other members of the California Psychological Association are disappointed with the veto.

“Despite repeated warnings from public health experts, professional athletes, and ski resorts, each winter brings news of hundreds of unnecessary tragedies for the failure to wear a helmet,” said Yee, “SB 105 would have significantly reduced instances of traumatic brain injury or death for such a vulnerable population.”

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