2005-01-07 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer


Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer Now that the holidays are over, I hope you are finding time to enjoy the presents that you received. If you or someone you know was given a skateboard, bicycle, or in-line skates, you may have a few more items to purchase in order to ensure your safety and compliance with New York State law.

A new law, which was signed by Governor Pataki on November 16, 2004, will require all children under the age of fourteen to wear safety helmets when riding skateboards in public places. This law took effect on January 1, 2005, and is similar in nature to laws protecting bicycle and scooter riders and those who use in-line skates. The first violation would be punishable by a warning, but for subsequent violations, the rider’s parent or guardian may be fined up to fifty dollars.

In addition to the helmet requirement, there are several other laws governing bicycles specifically. Children under the age of one are not allowed to be passengers on bicycles, and all bicycles must be equipped with a bell or sound device. If you intend to ride your bicycle at night, the bicycle must have lighting equipment and reflective devices or reflective material.

In order to protect the wearer, helmets need to fit properly. A helmet that fits correctly should sit on top of the wearer’s head with the bottom of the helmet resting two finger widths above the eyebrows.

Helmets should fit snugly and should not rock from side to side.

The helmet’s strap should be fastened at all times, leaving room for only one finger inside the strap. Once a helmet has been in an accident, it should be replaced, because there may be damage that is not visible. This damage may lessen the helmet’s ability to absorb shock, which may reduce or eliminate the helmet’s ability to protect the wearer.

In addition to wearing the required helmet, it is recommended that riders wear wrist, elbow, and knee guards to help reduce the risk of sustaining injuries from riding a skateboard or using in-line skates. Also, wearing clothing that is either reflective or light in color at night will make you more visible to motorists. If you ride your bicycle or use in-line skates on New York State roads, you are required to follow the same rules as motorists. These rules are available at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website at www.nydmv. state.ny.us.

By observing safety laws and taking precautions, you can help to ensure that recreation is both fun and safe. For more information on this topic, consider visiting the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Safety Committee’s website at www. nysgtsc.state.ny.us/kids or the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute’s website at www.helmets.org.

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