Helmet safety revisited after teen critically injured in skateboard accident

Laenani Drive, Kahaluu

Should there be a mandatory helmet law for children who ride skateboards?

State lawmakers plan to address the issue in the upcoming legislative session, especially after a 15-year-old boy was critically injured in Kahaluu Monday morning.

Witnesses said the teen was skateboarding down Laenani Drive near Laenani Neighborhood Park at around 9 a.m. when he slid over some gravel and lost control. He was taken to Queen’s Medical Center with a head injury.

The accident happened right in front of the Miller residence, and the Kahaluu couple believes strongly in helmet laws when children are concerned.

“I really believe there should be rules in place so that parents have helmets for their children, so they can make choices as adults whether they want to ride helmet-free,” said April Miller.

There is a helmet law for bicyclists under the age of 16, but when helmet laws of any other kind are introduced at the state legislature, they are struck down.

“People come out as super advocates against sometimes,” said Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona, Kau), chair of the Senate health committee and an emergency room doctor, “but a little bit of discomfort can’t replace the need for safety.”

It is against the law to ride a skateboard on a public street. If caught, you pay a $25 fine.

According to statistics with the trauma registry at Queen’s Medical Center, for the years 2006 through 2010, 47 of the 119 patients (nearly 40 percent) injured while skateboarding involved children under the age of 16. Thirty-five patients in this age group who suffered traumatic brain injury were skateboarding without a helmet.

According to the rules at city skateboard parks, it is strongly recommended that you wear a safety helmet, along with protective gear like elbow and knee pads. But it is only a recommendation.

Two years ago, proposals to make helmets mandatory at skate parks as well as at malls, on sidewalks and at other public places were set aside because of liability concerns and probable lack of enforcement.

Tyler Gilmer has been skateboarding for several years. “For younger kids, they should be supervised. They should be guided to wear a safety helmet,” he said. “But after a certain age, they should make that choice by themselves.”

“We should have parity for skateboarders (together with the mandatory law for bicyclists under the age of 16), and we should have that discussion at the State Capitol,” said Green.

Chuck Mitsui, founder of the Association of Skateboarders of Hawaii, said while he would also support a mandatory helmet law for skateboarders under 16, he would also like to see what is already in place in Portland: skateboarding in city bike lanes.

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