NY raises upper limit for equestrian helmet wearing

Kimberley Crack, a member of the Invercargill-Kennington Pony Club, near Invercargill, New Zealand, jumps Sunny Brae Rose Maree.

A new bill has been passed in New York passed requiring horse riders up to the age of 18 to wear a safety helmet.

The age at which a helmet is required was was previously 14. The bill to increase the age limit sponsored by New York State Senator Ken LaValle and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. passed both the Assembly and Senate this week.

The bill also increases the maximum fine for violations from $50 to $250.

Assemblyman Thiele was first approached by Southampton resident Gary Hornstein during the summer of 2011 in an effort to strengthen New York’s helmet laws.  Hornstein’s 12-year-old daughter, Nicole, had died after suffering brain injuries after falling off a horse in Florida while not wearing a helmet in 2006.

Since 2011, Assemblyman Thiele and Gary Hornstein have lobbied for passage for the bill.

“I commend Mr. Hornstein’s dedication in helping to prevent anyone else’s child from being injured or any family from having to suffer the tremendous loss that he did. I thank Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman David Gantt, Assembly Codes Committee Chairman Joseph Lentol and my fellow colleagues who recognized the importance and need for this legislation and moved the bill in the last few hours of Session,” Thiele said.

Mr. Hornstein, who was instrumental in passing a similar bill in Florida and is currently working with several other states to introduce the same, said: “I’m humbly so grateful to be a part of something so special – all the children are worth it. I want to give special thanks to our Assemblyman Fred Thiele, his assistant Laura Stephenson, Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, Assemblyman David Gantt, and the support of my family and God.”

It has been estimated that 19 million people aged 16 years and older participate in riding activities. Horseback riding is the eighth leading cause of emergency room treated, sports and recreation related injuries, and has been identified as a higher-risk activity than automobile racing, motorcycle riding, football and skiing. About 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 about 60% of deaths resulting from equestrian accidents.

The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that wearing helmets reduces head and brain injuries by 85%.


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