Quietly, but effectively, the landscape of equestrian safety laws changed yesterday as one of the most diverse equestrian activity locations in the United States changed its equestrian helmet law. Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an extension of the state of New York’s helmet law for equestrian activities to include all children and teens under the age of 18 when mounted on a horse.
Bill S2007 in the New York State Legislature was defined as “an act to amend the vehicle and traffic law and the general business law, in relation to requiring that persons less than eighteen years of age wear a helmet when riding a horse.” New York was the first state to pass a law requiring helmets for children under 14 when a law was passed in September 1999, taking effect in 2000.
The law affects children and teens riding horses under any circumstances. Show and sport organizations regulations separately impose restrictions on the types of helmets to be worn, enhancing the law for New York horsemen. The law also makes parents and guardians responsible for fines related to their children’s non-use of helmets.
The revised New York law specifically states:
Section 1. Subdivision I of Section 1265 of the vehicle and traffic law is amended to increase from 14 to 18 the age in which a person must wear a helmet when riding a horse. Also amends subdivision 2 of Section 1265 of the vehicle and traffic law to increase the maximum amount of the civil fine from $50 to $250 for violating the provisions of this act. Increases from 14 to 18 the age in which a summons can be issued to a parent or guardian for violating the provisions of this act.
Section 2. Subdivision 2 of Section 396-dd of the general business law, as added by Chapter 455 of the Laws of 1999, is amended to increase from 14 to 18 the age in which a person must be provided with a helmet at no cost beyond the rental fee by horse providers when riding a horse. Also amends subdivision 4 of section 396-dd of the general business law to increase the maximum amount of the civil fine from $50 to $250.
According to the analysis accompanying the legislation, approximately 70,000 people are treated in emergency rooms annually because of equestrian-related injuries, while thousands more are treated in physicians’ offices. Head injuries account for approximately 60% of deaths resulting from equestrian accidents.
No source is given for those statistics, not were any statistics given for the state of New York, or for statistics related to the higher age category. The new law’s text does suggest that “changing the age to eighteen years of age would further protect our children, prevent serious injuries and help save lives.”
American Horse Council statistics state that there are 202,000 horses in New York, over 70 percent of which are involved in showing and recreation; the New York horse industry produces goods and services valued at $1.4 billion. The state is home to virtually all horse disciplines and breeds.
The bill was sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor on Long Island in the Assembly and in the Senate by Kenneth P. LaValle.
In 2009, the State of Florida passed “Nicole’s Law” requiring children sixteen years of age and under to wear a helmet. “Nicole’s Law’ was named after Nicole Hornstein, the 12-year-old daughter of Gary Horsnstein of Southampton, New York. Nicole died after suffering brain injuries after falling off a horse while not wearing a helmet.
Assemblyman Thiele was first approached by Gary Hornstein during the summer of 2011 in an effort to strengthen New York’s helmet laws. Hornstein is currently working with several other states to introduce the same, noted, “I’m humbly so grateful to be a part of something so special- all the children are worth it.
Other states like Delaware are introducing and have passes similar strengthened helmet laws.
New York’s gaming laws have a separate regulation requiring helmets at the racetrack, without regard to the age of the rider.
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Photo by GinFox.
by Fran Jurga
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