2002-05-04 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

The rapid growth of in line skating has led to a growing concern for safety. In September 1994, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report suggesting a dramatic rise in the number of injuries related to in line skating. Of an estimated 15 million skaters in 1994, there were 73,000 reported trips to emergency medical facilities.

In response to safety concerns, New York became the first state in the nation to enact an in line skate helmet law. The 1995 law requires children under the age of 14 to wear helmets while skating and also requires retailers who sell skates to stock protective gear like elbow, wrist and knee pads. It also stipulates that manufacturers must put stopping devices on such skates and warn skaters to use protective gear.

About five years ago, I received a letter from two young women whose sister and friend were involved in a horrific accident while in-line skating. The letter explained how their sister and friend were skating on a warm summer evening when a car approached the two skaters and a fatal accident occurred. The young women shared this story with me because they believed that had there been reflective material on the skates, the accident could possibly have been avoided, and their friend’s life may have been spared.

In response to the letter and safety concerns, I sponsored and passed a law that would bring in-line skating requirements regarding reflective material to the same level required for bicycles. Over half of all in-line skater fatalities occur from collision with a motor vehicle. In-line skaters are held to the same standards as bicycles in terms of obeying the rules of the road but until 2000, there was no requirement for skates to contain reflective material. The use of reflective material increases the visibility of skaters and helps reduce incidences between automobiles and skaters.

The amazing aspect of this measure was the response from industry groups. Industry groups were concerned with the reflective material mandate but felt the safety concern was important to address. Industry groups came together and worked with the Department of Motor Vehicles to create standards for the use of reflective materials. Not only are these standards used for skates sold in NY, but the standards were developed with the intent to use them for all skates sold in the country.

Over the last eight years, the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee worked diligently to improve in line skater safety, and it will continue to do so. So before you and your family go for a skate, remember to these important guidelines:

Always wear protective gear; helmet, wrist protection, elbow pads and knee pads; Master the basics of striding, stopping and turning; Skate under control; Watch for road hazards; and Make sure your skates are equipped with reflective material.

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