By CLAIRE ST. JOHN
and AMY LINDBLOM
Yoda could count the number of helmeted kids at the Greenley Road skate park Friday on one of his three-digited green hands.
Neither the kids wearing helmets nor their dozen or so bare-headed counterparts on skates, bikes or blades knew much about the helmet law that took effect Jan. 1.
The state law requires anyone under the age of 18 piloting anything with wheels to wear a helmet.
A $25 fine will be imposed on any minor riding without a helmet.
But at 1:30 p.m. Friday, only a few kids had helmets on. One was 10-year-old Nick Schiller from Los Angeles, who said he always wears a helmet when roller blading.
"Now I have to, because my dad said it was the law," Schiller said.
Seventeen-year-old James Jensen, a Cassina High School student, was riding his bike in the skatepark and had a few choice words to say about the new law.
"I think it's b-s-," he said.
Jensen said the skate park has more pressing safety issues.
"The skate park needs lights at night, and people under 10 shouldn't be allowed to use it," Jensen said, adding that younger children are not as skilled and can be a danger to themselves and others with or without a helmet.
Curtis Creek Elementary School student James Romano, 13, takes a more pragmatic approach.
"If I fell and thought 'that was pretty close, I'm going to try that again,' I'd probably wear a helmet," he said.
But when he was told about the new law and the $25 fine, Romano got his helmet out of the family car and strapped it firmly to his head before skating off.
Greg Schiller of Los Angeles visits his mother in Tuolumne County and often brings his son, Nick, to the skate park. Schiller thinks the law is a good idea, but a lot of effort must go into it to keep kids' heads covered.
"If the city is serious about it, they need to have a uniformed officer enforcing it, or the kids won't do it."
Sonora Police Chief Duane Ellis said his officers will enforce the helmet law, especially at the skateboard park on Greenley Road.
"I knew the law was going in effect, and that the kids now have to wear helmets, but I would like the county recreation department to post a sign up there so it is easier for us to enforce," Ellis said.
Ellis said the law is the law, and despite his officers being stretched thin throughout Sonora, they will keep an eye out for riders without helmets in addition to the other duties they have.
Tuolumne County Sheriff's deputies will also be checking for helmets.
"We will cite kids who are not wearing helmets," Lt. John Steely said.
Contact Claire St. John at firstname.lastname@example.org.