The web page for the Berkeley Skate Park tells you a lot about the skateboard helmet situation in the East Bay. Action photos of helmet-less skateboarders—hair flying as they catch air on the rim of the park’s concrete bowl—sit just above a sentence stating that helmets and knee pads are a condition of using the free park.
The two young men who died in the East Bay this week following skateboard accidents were over 18, and not required by law to wear a helmet. But the mother of Tyler De Martini told Albany Patch that her son had not worn a helmet even as a minor. Tyler, who turned 18 in October, was not unusual. The state law that requires all minors on bikes, scooters and skateboards to wear a helmet is difficult for police and parents to enforce.
See our poll below on whether police should enforce the helmet law.
In the past two years, the El Cerrito Police Department has not issued any citations to a minor for not wearing a helmet while riding a bike, scooter or skateboard. The Albany Police Department issued one citation during the same period. However, Sgt. Shawn Maples with the El Cerrito Police Department said officers spend considerable time educating kids about the importance of helmets. He noted that issuing citations to children can “set the stage for negative future relationships.”
Both departments sometimes give warnings to juveniles breaking the helmet law, though no record is kept of how many warnings are issued.
El Cerrito suspended enforcement of a city ordinance requiring cyclists of all ages to wear a helmet because it might violate state law, according to Maples.
One commenter that parents must rely on the police to enforce safety laws: “Once your kid is out of your sight, you have little control, and as we all know, peer pressure trumps everything. I'm not prepared to ban my son from the activity he loves most in the world, but I sure would like authoritative help in getting his entire group to wear helmets.”
For their part, teenage skateboarders don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the law. They fret more over what their peers might be thinking. On Thursday at the Berkeley skate park, only a handful of the dozen or so skaters enjoying a balmy late afternoon sported helmets.
Spencer McCarthy, 14, an eighth grader at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, said his parents tell him he has to wear a helmet, but he doesn’t always heed their rules. “If I’m about to try something new, I wear a helmet,” he said. “But if I’m just riding around, I don’t.”
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Read more about Tyler here on Albany Patch.