Users of scooters, skateboards and roller blades are now legally
required, until they are 18 years of age, to join bicyclists in
wearing helmets when they ride.
The new law, which took effect on January 1, 2003, is part of
the California Vehicle Code. Sergeant Steve Freitas of the Windsor
Police Department said police officers will explain the new law to
students in school assemblies during during the next few weeks in
connection with the opening of Windsor’s new skate park.
“After education will come enforcement,” said Freitas. “There
won’t be a grace period.”
The Healdsburg Police Department is taking a similar approach.
“We’re doing an education period first,” said Sergeant Gary W.
Plass. “We’ve been giving warnings. Soon the warnings will turn
into zero-tolerance citations.”
Danny Ramirez, assistant manager at Healdsburg’s Revolution
Skateboard Shop, said he does not expect to see helmetless
skateboarders getting tickets. In the past, when kids have been
caught skateboarding in the downtown area in violation of a city
ordinance, the police have just warned them and made them leave,
Ramirez said.
Plass thinks attitudes toward the helmet law will change with
“This is a warning,” Plass said he tells offenders on the
street. “We do have a warning file. This is your only warning.”
When he writes a ticket, Plass said, it will cost the offender $25.
Offenses at the skateparks of both Healdsburg and Windsor carry
heavier fines.
Ramirez said it is currently difficult for riders of scooters
and skateboards to conform to the new law. “We’re supposed to send
these helmets back because they’re not rated,” he said, pointing to
several helmets in a glass case. But the store has no helmets in
stock that have been approved under a new rating system, according
to Ramirez.
Other shops, and the police, said they were unaware of any
problem with ratings. “We sell quite a few skateboard helmets,”
said Mike Stollmeyer, owner of Windsor Bicycle Center. “It’s either
Snell-approved, or it’s not,” he said, referring to a rating
company that does crash testing on a wide variety of products.
Asked if he believes the rider of a skateboard or scooter is at
risk without a helmet, Stollmeyer said he thinks the chance of
serious head injury is greater with a bicycle in traffic. “I’m 29
and I would have been dead four times in accidents with cars if I
hadn’t had a helmet,” he said. But he believes there is still
plenty of risk for riders of scooters and skateboards, and he
supports the new law.
Steve Crawford, manager of Sonoma Sport in Healdsburg, said, “I
see that there’s a lot of kids out there defying the rule, … but I
can see the necessity for a helmet. I’ve seen kids out there that
have gotten hurt pretty bad, where a helmet would’ve helped.”
Ramirez takes a different view. “I’ve been skateboarding for
eight years,” he said. “It comes down to overcoming your own fears.
Skateboarding is about danger. If there is no danger how can you
overcome your fears?”
“I had a concussion one time,” said Ramirez, “but I was back two
weeks later. Most skateboarding injuries are ankle injuries. I’ve
rolled an ankle at least once a year, but I’ve only hit my head
“If I had a little kid, I’d put a helmet on him to start off,
but he’d probably take it off later,” said Ramirez, age 22.
Shannon Lowers-O’Hair, age 16 and a customer at Revolution said,
“My little sisters have helmets with stars and butterflies on
them.” She also indicated that she does not own a helmet and has no
plans to buy one.
Stollmeyer observed that skateboard and bicycle cultures are
very different. “With skateboarding it’s punk music, it’s anarchy,
its’ grunge,” he said. “Just look in a skateboard magazine.”
Plass hopes parents will work to change their children’s
attitudes. “This saves lives,” he said. “Millions of dollars are
being spent every year on head injuries that don’t have to
To Ramirez and Lowers-O’Hair, that is not the issue.
“Skateboarding is not a sport,” said Ramirez. “It’s a life of its
The fact that it’s not safe is precisely the point.

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