Two significant ski safety bills have passed the California legislature and await the governor’s signature. One measure by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, mirrors bicycle helmet laws already in place in California. The bill requires all children under age 18 to wear helmets while skiing and snowboarding. It would impose a $25 fine on parents if minors are caught skiing or snowboarding without a helmet.
SB880 passed the Assembly last week 42-20, and was approved by the Senate 22-11 on Wednesday. The bill’s supporters acknowledged that law enforcement probably won’t enforce the rule, if passed, at private resorts. They said, however, that the bill requires ski resorts to post signs warning of the law.
The second bill, AB1652, was also was approved by lawmakers this week. It now requires ski resorts to develop and publish safety plans, and submit reports to state safety officials only when a fatal accident occurs. The ski industry had fought a an earlier version of the bill that would have required ski resorts to publish reports on how many people are injured or killed on the slopes, increase safety measures, and force minors and employees to wear helmets.
California has 32 largely unregulated ski resorts, including Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Sierra-at-Tahoe. Data regarding injuries or fatalities occurring at ski resorts is only aggregated nationally by the ski industry associations; therefore, consumers are unable to get information about the overall death and injury statistics or the relative safety performance of individual ski resorts.
Numerous recent studies have found that traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among skiers and snowboarders, and children in particular are at higher risk. A 2008 study conducted by University of Washington professor Peter Cummings concluded that the use of helmets could reduce the risk of serious injury in up to 60 percent of all accidents. Additionally, skiers and snowboarders who crashed or fell had a 15 percent reduction in the risk of any head injury if they were wearing a helmet. The Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission has found that more than 7,000 head injuries per year on the slopes in the U.S. could be prevented or reduced in severity by the use of a helmet. The CPSC study also showed that “for children under 15 years of age, 53 percent of head injuries would be prevented or significantly reduced in severity by use of a helmet.
To become state law, the governor must sign the bills by September 30th.