In California, anyone under 18 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, a scooter or a skateboard or using roller skates. If caught riding without one, the parents of the child can be hit with a fine of $25 to $200. Under the new law, the charge will be treated like a “fix-it ticket” meaning that the parents can get the charge dismissed without paying anything if they fix the problem.
To do that, the parent has to show the court that they have a proper safety helmet and that the child has completed an approved bicycle safety course. According to Sargent Robert Hill of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Traffic Safety Operations, the law was enacted to take the financial burden off of the parents while still providing an incentive to get the kids to wear helmets.
Bicycle Safety Course
The approved safety course will be offered to all minors, and their parents, and can be completed in a few hours on a Saturday. One such course is being offered by a joint project of UC Berkeley, SafeTREC and California Walks Cal Walks Funding on a grant provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is one of many programs that can be approved by the state to satisfy the new law.
The name of the program is the Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training Program and teaches basic pedestrian and bicycle safety. Among others, the course focuses on “best practices” in areas of high pedestrian areas like sidewalks and crosswalks and trains the attendee on crash reduction factors and bicycle danger areas. Once completed, the parent will be given a certificate indicating that the minor has completed the course, and the parent can take the document to court and the charges will be dismissed.
The previous helmet law went into effect in 1993, and after its enactment, helmet usage went from 10 percent to over 60 percent. However, as time went on, police began to write fewer and fewer helmet tickets primarily because of the financial burden it put on the parents. Members of the legislature and police alike hope the new law will have the same impact as did the passage of the first law in 1993.