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Pa. lawmakers urge scooter helmet law

January 15, 2001

Pa. lawmakers urge scooter helmet law



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - New lightweight scooters were the rage for Christmas this year, but a Pennsylvania lawmaker is taking a step to protect children who ride them.

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State Rep. David J. Mayernik, D-North Hills/North Boroughs, near Pittsburgh, plans to introduce the proposal that would require all youngsters under age 12 who ride scooters to wear helmets when the Pennsylvania General Assembly convenes in Harrisburg Monday.

The legislation would make the helmet requirement for push scooters the same as it is for bicycles under Pennsylvania's vehicle code, said Jeff Biros, senior legislative analyst for Mayernik.

"The rise in the sale of scooters went from virtually zero last year to 5 million, and so have injuries gone up exponentially," Biros said. "The representative's main concerns are with head injuries."

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Mayernik's proposal may spark some debate when it is presented in the next few weeks.

"I have a real problem with the government coming in and taking over the role of parents telling them what their children have to do and can't do," said Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Waynesboro.

"I think responsible parents should make their children wear helmets, but it is a reflection on our society today when government stands in and mandates this," he said.

Fleagle said he will give the issue a lot of thought before voting on it.

"As a representative, I am reluctant to vote for something that would take the place of parental authority," he said. "The big philosophical question is how far government should step into this."

Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Shippensburg, was unfamiliar with the legislation and the scooters and had no opinion on Mayernik's proposal.

The scooters are new versions of the foot-propelled scooters popular in the 1950s. Now made from lightweight materials such as aluminum with small, low-friction wheels, they are faster and more dangerous, Biros said.

"The rate and severity of injury associated with scooters show that they definitely are not toys, and present a variety of dangers to anyone who uses them, especially children," Mayernik said.

No specific incident prompted Mayernik to write the legislation.

He even bought his 6-year-old daughter a scooter for Christmas - but she had to promise to wear a helmet.

"The Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly recommends that children using scooters protect themselves by wearing a helmet," Mayernik said.

Between January and November, there have been 30,000 emergency room-treated injuries associated with scooters, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In September alone, there were 8,600 injuries, reflecting an 1,800 percent increase in injuries since May.

Children under age 15 accounted for 85 percent of the injuries.

While the majority were scrapes, bruises and broken bones, there were 2,400 head injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission data. There were also two scooter-related deaths - an adult who fell and struck his head and a 6-year-old boy who rode into traffic and was hit by a car.

Chambersburg Hospital does not keep records of patients by cause of injuries. Emergency room physicians could not recall treating any patients with scooter-related injuries, said Sheran White, a hospital spokeswoman.

Both New York and New Jersey are considering similar legislation, Biros said. No other state currently has laws requiring those riding scooters to wear helmets.

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