New helmet law goes into effect in January

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With a new California law passed last week, anyone under 18 riding a bicycle, skateboard, scooter or any other wheeled contraption must have a helmet firmly strapped to his or her head or face a fine.

Previously, only bicyclists were required to wear helmets.

Mike Russell, director of the Tuolumne County Recreation Department, says he will be glad when the new law goes into effect in January.

Currently, the Recreation Department is required to post a sign at the Sonora Skate Park stating that helmets and protective pads and guards are required, but the department cannot enforce the rules without leaving the county vulnerable to lawsuits.

"There's a California state law that does not allow municipalities to regulate skate parks without taking full responsibility." Russell said. "In my opinion, this is not a very well thought-out requirement."

The new law, enforceable by police, levies a $25 fine against children caught wheeling around without a helmet, although the fine can be waived for first-time offenders. If a bare-headed law breaker cannot come up with the cash, payment responsibility falls to parents.

Some 72 percent of the fines will be used to fund safety education campaigns and programs to buy helmets for low-income children. The rest will go towards administration costs of the new law.

The bill was written by Sen. Jack O'Connell, D-San Luis Obispo. He said he wrote the law after a young child in his district was hurt falling off a scooter.

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The Union Democrat
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