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New York passes stricter helmet laws for youth equestrians

Riders under age 18 must wear helmets when riding a horse on public roads or trails.

August 9, 2013

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Road Riding On July 31, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill requiring children under age 18 to wear a helmet when riding a horse. Since 2000, the state has had a law on the books requiring approved equestrian helmets for riders under age 14, but with the passage of S.2007, the law has been updated to become the country's most far-reaching helmet law.

Besides requiring older teens to begin wearing helmets, the new law will also increase the maximum fine for violators from $50 to $250. Because violators in the case of this law are minors, the fines are issued to their parents or guardians. The law has only been enforced on roads open to public traffic and will not likely affect children riding at private stables, horse shows or on most trails. The law went into effect immediately.

The bill also amends the state's general business law to require horse providers (such as trail ride operators or riding instructors who use school horses) to provide helmets to riders under age 18 at no cost above the standard rental fee.

The text of the bill offers extensive justification for the law:

Horseback riding is a popular recreational activity enjoyed by more than 30 million people in the United States. It has been estimated that 19 million people aged 16 years and older participating in riding activities. Horseback riding is the eighth leading case of emergency room treated, sports and recreation related injuries. Horseback riding has been identified as a higher-risk activity than automobile racing, motorcycle riding, football and skiing. Injuries occur while riding or handling horses without discrimination for age or experience level. 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.
Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce chances of sustaining serious injury. One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is a properly fitting helmet in order to absorb the impact to the head, provide cushioning to the skull and reduce jarring of the brain against the skull. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that wearing helmets reduces head and brain injuries by 85% and the Equestrian Medical Safety Association strongly recommends the wearing of a properly fitted ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmet with the harness secured during equestrian activities.

While New York State was one of the first states to adopt a helmet law protecting children, the current law does not adequately protect all children. Currently, only children fourteen years of age and under are required to wear a helmet. Changing the age to eighteen years of age would further protect our children, prevent serious injuries and help save lives

Further Reading
How to correctly fit an equestrian helmet
The helmet argument
Equestrian Safety Center

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Reader Comments

hal    gwood, NY

8/25/2013 10:39:13 AM

Riding is a very dangerous sport, yes. But to make it a law? Really? If I am on a baby or training a younger horse I will absolutely wear one but if I am on my show horse who I know isn't going to hurt me I wont wear one. I just turned 16, and I will have my license soon. If we can make the choice to drive a vehicle that could also kill us or injure us just as bad or worse, at the age of 16, I think we should have the choice whether we wear a helmet or not.

Peggy    Wadesville, IN

8/20/2013 12:21:31 PM

I'm well over 18 and I always were a helment, as much for my family as for me. I don't want them to have to take care of me after a brain injury. My helment saved my life just last year after my horse took an unexpected tumble on flat ground. Maybe it shouldn't be a law, but I sure wish more people would voluntarily wear one.

pat    endicott, NY

8/19/2013 3:54:09 PM

I'm sick to death of all the laws!!

Sarah    Washington, MO

8/14/2013 1:09:32 PM

they already have that law in missouri, it should be a law in all states, i only know a few people who ride without helmets, as i am under 18 i have to wear one, but i would never ride without one anyway

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