The new year brought with it a bit of a bummer for underage skaters. A new state law that went into effect on Jan. 1 requires all persons under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while skateboarding, inline skating or riding a non-motorized scooter.
People who break the law will be subject to a $25 fine. Because this law applies only to minors, the parents of offenders will be held liable if their children cannot pay. The law also provides an opportunity for first-time offenders to receive a warning in lieu of the fine.
Proceeds from the fine will go towards helmet and skating safety programs. In urban areas, 25 percent of the proceeds will go toward buying helmets for children from low-income families.
“To my knowledge no citations have been given out yet, but I have given out several warnings,” Sgt. Greg Nordyke said.
Before Jan. 1 the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office worked with elementary, junior high and high schools to inform students of the impending helmet requirement. Nordyke said all the people he gave warnings to claimed they did not know about the new law.
“Whether or not they did I don’t know,” Nordyke said.
The law has been greeted with mixed reactions from the community.
“I think it’s kind of petty. I think the government worries about the wrong things sometimes. From what I’ve seen the kids haven’t been affected by it yet,” Joe Kruz, an employee of the Church of Skatan, said.
Some believe the new law conflicts with ideas set forth in laws passed in 1997 that labeled skateboarding as a hazardous recreational activity. The law limited the liability of public and private skateparks.
“I don’t approve of the new law. In California there is a law saying that skateboarding is do-at-your-own-risk. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Alex Herrera, an employee of Skate Street.
The law will not affect the possible building of a skatepark in Isla Vista, which has been discussed in conjunction with the creation of a community center. The same law, which categorized skateboarding as a hazardous recreational activity in the late ’90s, diminishes any effect the new helmet law would have on parks.
“I don’t think this law will affect skateparks. By law, skateboarding is an activity in which you assume your own risk. Plus, skateparks already have to require protective gear,” said Steve Rose of the Purkiss Rose-RSI Company, which built the skatepark by the Stearn’s Wharf.
“There’s the longtime skateboard cool factor to deal with. This is the law, whether you think it’s cool or not,” Nordyke said.
Senator Jack O’Connell (D-San Luis Obispo) introduced the bill, which expanded upon a pre-existing law requiring all bicyclists under the age of 18 to wear helmets.