Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) (A.1890) which will require children under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when riding a horse. Senator Kenneth P. LaValle sponsored the Senate version, S. 2007. In addition to increasing the age at which a helmet is required from 14 to 18, the bill also increases the maximum fine for violating the requirement from $50 to $250. The law takes effect immediately.
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. While New York was the first state to enact a statute requiring the wearing of an approved equestrian helmet, the law does not adequately protect all children. Under current law, only children fourteen years of age and under are required to wear a helmet. Mr. Hornstein’s daughter, Nicole, had tragically died after suffering brain injuries after falling off a horse in Florida while not wearing a helmet in 2006.
Since 2011, Assemblyman Thiele and Mr. Hornstein have worked side by side in Albany lobbying for passage for the bill. This week, in the last few days of Session, a victory was won.
“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 Governor Cuomo, 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.”
Mr. Hornstein, who was instrumental in passing a similar bill in Florida and is currently working with several other states to introduce the same, noted, “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 participating in riding activities. Horseback riding is the eighth leading case 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. Approximately 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 approximately 60% of deaths resulting from equestrian accidents.
Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce chances of sustaining serious injury. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that wearing helmets reduces head and brain injuries by 85%.