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Scooter Safety Law May Hit Streets

By NICK ABADJIAN, Writer, Queens Tribune (with permission - copyright 2000 Tribco, Inc.)

Back from the 50s, the new scooters are sleeker, lighter, faster and more portable, and have been related to 9,400 emergency room visits nationwide so far this year. The City Council’s answer to this parental problem that’s picking up speed is helmets.

The Council has introduced legislation requiring youngsters, under the age of 14, to wear a helmet while riding their scooter, or get fined $50.

The impetus to the bill was a six-year-old New Jersey child who was killed by a car while riding a scooter. The legislation, introduced by Health Committee Chair Councilman Victor Robles, is designed to encourage the purchase of a helmet and not to make money on fines.

Queens Councilman Alfonso Stabile, who co-sponsored the bill, explained, "if kids riding a scooter hit a bump, because they are light, they are likely to fall headfirst. Most of the statistics in hospitals show head damage or a swollen brain. The scooters are dangerous. Maybe if we issue a bill the parents will understand this."

Since May, when the scooter started to re-enter pop culture as a fad, there has been a 700 percent increase in scooter-related injuries according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In August alone, there was a reported 4,000 injuries in emergency rooms nationwide and children have accounted for 90 percent of the nation’s scooter related injuries this year.

"We just had a serious case in Howard Beach," said Stabile. "A kid spent three weeks in the hospital. He was going around the corner and hit his head against a double-parked car. They didn’t know he had a serious injury until they brought him to the hospital and realized his head was swollen."

The Councilman added, "It would be nice if we lived on Little House on the Prairie, but when you have a city like New York, with a large amount of cars on the road, we do see many more accidents"

The $50 fine imposed by the City Council’s bill may be expunged if the child proves that they purchased a helmet between the date of the fine and the court appearance. One obstacle, that is being ironed out with the city, is if a parent must be present when the child is issued a fine. The bill is also requiring the Health Department to print a pamphlet explaining the dangers of riding a scooter.

"If we prevent the death of one child’s life," said Stabile. "The bill is worth it."

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Last modified: May 01, 2008