A ground breaking law has passed in New Jersey requiring all skiers and snowboarders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet at any of the state’s resorts. The bill was signed into law on April 6th and will begin to be enforced on November 1st. Until now, no state has required the use of a helmet by law.
Violators will be fined $25.00 for their first offence and up to $100.00 dollars for subsequent offenses. The burden is not falling solely on children, parents or guardians will be responsible for their kid’s helmets and seeing that the fines are paid.
The motivation behind the law is straight forward: helmets save lives. Skiing and snowboarding are sports which have inherent risks. Going down an icy mountain with two elongated pieces of waxed polythene and fibreglass can certainly be dangerous, but that’s part of the enjoyment. As reported by the National Ski Areas Associationover the last 10 years there have been an average of 40.6 deaths on ski mountains. The statistics show that fatalities are predominantly among younger (70% are aged teen to late 30s) males (86%). If this law can prevent at least one of those deaths, then it has been worth passing.
While many (if not all) ski academies and race programs already require helmets to some degree, no other state has passed legislation making a statewide requirement. This bill was sponsored by State Senator Anthony Bucco, a Republican from Boonton. It was met with bipartisan support making it through the Assembly with a vote of 71-6 and the Senate with a 34-2 vote. This is not the first attempt at a bill of this nature. Similar initiatives have fizzled due to the proposed responsibility of enforcement falling on resort owners rather than police and parents. California, Illinois, and New York have all had mumblings and attempts at passing ski helmet laws, but New Jersey has now officially passed the first statewide requirement.
Interestingly, the precedent for skiing safety has not been set by Utah, Colorado, or even one of the big East Coast skiing states. This groundbreaking ski legislation is signed into law in New Jersey, the state with more MTV reality stars than ski resorts.