Bicycle Helmets Now Required for Children under 17 Years Old

Today, the Acting-Governor signed a series of bills that amends the provisions of NJSA 39:4-10.1 et seq. in such a way as to require children under the age of 17 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or using roller skates or skateboards. The previously, New Jersey law required helmets for children under the age of 14. The amended statute goes into effect in the spring of 2006.

The statutes as amended are reproduced below.

1. Section 1 of P.L.1991, c.465 (C.39:4-10.1) is amended to read as follows:

1. a. A person under 17 years of age shall not operate, or ride upon a bicycle as a passenger, unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet which meets the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z90.4 bicycle helmet standard) or the Snell Memorial Foundation’s 1990 Standard for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling. This requirement shall apply to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat which is attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.

As used in this act, “bicycle” means a vehicle with two wheels propelled solely by human power and having pedals, handle bars and a saddle-like seat. The term shall include a bicycle for two or more persons having seats and corresponding sets of pedals arranged in tandem.

b. The director shall publish a list of bicycle helmets which meet the standards described in subsection a. of this section and shall provide for its distribution in as many locations frequented by the public as the director deems appropriate and practicable.

c. The requirement in subsection a. of this section shall apply at all times while a bicycle is being operated on any property open to the public or used by the public for pedestrian and vehicular purposes; however, a municipality may by ordinance exempt from this requirement a person operating or riding on a bicycle as a passenger when the bicycle is operated:

(1) on a road or highway closed to motor vehicle traffic and limited to pedestrian or bicycle use at all times or only during specified periods of time during which bicycles may be operated; or

(2) exclusively on a trail, route, course, boardwalk, path or other area which is set aside for the use of bicycles or for the use of pedestrians and bicycle operation is not otherwise prohibited. However, an exemption may not be granted under this paragraph for any portion of a trail, route, course, boardwalk, path or other area which is immediately adjacent to a road or highway used by motor vehicle traffic and which does not contain a barrier of sufficient height and rigidity to prevent the inadvertent or deliberate entry of a bicycle operator onto the road or highway.

d. An ordinance enacted pursuant to subsection c. of this section shall specify those roads, highways, trails, routes, courses, boardwalks, paths or areas within the municipality where helmets are not required during the operation of a bicycle.

e. When a bicycle is being operated in an area where bicycle helmets are not required, the operator or a passenger, except a passenger in a restraining seat or trailer, shall dismount from the bicycle and walk whenever it is necessary to enter a crosswalk or to cross a road or highway upon which motor vehicle traffic is permitted.

(cf: P.L.1997, c.411, s.10)

2. Section 3 of P.L.1991, c. 465 (C.39:4-10.3) is amended to read as follows:

3. a. A person regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting bicycles shall post a sign at the point where the sale or rental transaction is completed stating: “STATE LAW REQUIRES A BICYCLE RIDER UNDER 17 YEARS OF AGE TO WEAR A HELMET.” The size of the sign shall be at a minimum 15 inches in length and 8 inches in width. This notification requirement shall not apply to a seller when a bicycle is sold through the use of a catalog or brochure and the purchase and payment are made by mail, telephone or another telecommunications or electronic method.

A person who fails to post a sign required by this subsection within 60 days after the effective date of this amendatory act (P.L.1995, c.177) shall be subject to a penalty not to exceed $25 a day for each day the business is open to the public and the sign is not posted. The enforcement of this subsection shall be vested in the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs of the Department of Law and Public Safety, the inspectors appointed under his authority, and the police or peace officers of, or inspectors duly appointed for this purpose, by any municipality or county or by the State. Jurisdiction of proceedings to collect the penalties prescribed by this act is vested in the Superior Court and the municipal court in any municipality where the defendant may be apprehended or where he may reside. Process shall be either a summons or warrant and shall be executed in a summary manner pursuant to “the penalty enforcement law” (N.J.S.2A:58-1 et seq.).

b. A person regularly engaged in the business of renting bicycles shall provide a helmet to a person under 17 years of age who will operate the bicycle in an area where a helmet is required, if the person does not already have a helmet in his possession. A fee may be charged for the helmet rental.

c. A person regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting bicycles who complies with the applicable requirements of this section shall not be liable in a civil action for damages for any physical injury sustained by a bicycle operator or passenger who is under the age of 17 years as a result of the operator’s or passenger’s failure to wear a helmet or to wear a properly fitted or fastened helmet in violation of the requirements of this act.

d. Within 60 days after the effective date of this amendatory act (P.L.1995, c.177), the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety shall make a reasonable effort to notify any person who is regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting bicycles of the requirements of this section. The responsibility of a person under this section shall not be abrogated or diminished in any manner if the person fails to receive or become aware of a notice from the division.

(cf: P.L.1995, c.177, s.1)

3. Section 1 of P.L.1997, c.411 (C.39:4-10.5) is amended to read as follows:

1. a. As used in this act:

“Director” means the Director of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety.

“Roller skates” means a pair of devices worn on the feet with a set of wheels attached, regardless of the number or placement of those wheels, and used to glide or propel the user over the ground.

b. A person under 17 years of age shall not operate any roller skates or skateboard unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened helmet which meets the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z90.4 bicycle helmet standard), the Snell Memorial Foundation’s 1990 Standard for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard or other such standard, as appropriate.

c. The requirement in subsection b. of this section shall apply at all times while a person subject to the provisions of this act is operating roller skates or skateboarding on any property open to the public or used by the public for roller skating or skateboarding.

(cf: P.L.1997, c.411, s.1)

4. Section 5 of P.L.1997, c.411 (C.39:4-10.9) is amended to read as follows:

5. a. A person, firm, corporation or other legal entity regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting roller skates or skateboards shall post a sign at the point where the sale or rental transaction is completed stating: “STATE LAW REQUIRES A PERSON UNDER 17 YEARS OF AGE TO WEAR A HELMET WHEN ROLLER SKATING OR SKATEBOARDING.” The size of the sign shall be at a minimum 15 inches in length and 8 inches in width. This notification requirement shall not apply to a seller when roller skates are sold through the use of a mail order catalog or brochure where the purchase and payment are made by mail, telephone or another telecommunications or electronic method.

b. A person, firm, corporation or other legal entity who fails to post the sign required by subsection a. of this section shall be subject to a penalty not to exceed $25 a day for each day the business is open to the public and the sign is not posted. The enforcement of this subsection shall be vested in the director, the inspectors appointed under his authority and the police or peace officers of, or inspectors duly appointed for this purpose by, any municipality or county or the State. Jurisdiction of proceedings to collect the penalties prescribed by this act is vested in the Superior Court and the municipal court in any municipality where the defendant resides. Process shall be either a summons or warrant and shall be executed in a summary manner pursuant to “the penalty enforcement law” (N.J.S.2A:58-1 et seq.).

c. A person, firm, corporation or other legal entity regularly engaged in the business of renting roller skates or skateboards shall make available an approved helmet to a person under 17 years of age who rents the roller skates or skateboards for use in an area where a helmet is required, if the person does not already have a helmet in his possession. A fee may be charged for the helmet rental.

d. A person, firm, corporation or other legal entity regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting roller skates or skateboards who complies with the applicable requirements of this section shall not be liable in a civil action for damages for any physical injury sustained by a user of roller skates or a skateboard who is under the age of `17 years as a result of that person’s failure to wear a helmet in accordance with the provisions of this act.

e. Sixty days before the effective date of this act, the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety shall make a reasonable effort to notify any person, firm, corporation or other legal entity who is regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting roller skates or skateboards of the requirements of this section. The responsibility of a person, firm, corporation or other legal entity under this section shall not be abrogated or diminished in any manner if the person fails to receive or become aware of a notice from the division.

(cf: P.L.1997, c.411, s.5)

5. This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month after enactment.

STATEMENT

Under current law, minors under 14 years of age must wear a helmet when operating or riding on a bicycle, roller skate, or skateboard. This bill would raise the age of that requirement to include all individuals under 17 years.

The bill also includes technical changes, reflecting the higher age, to the sections of law which:

(1) require businesses that rent or sell bicycles, roller skates, or skateboards to post signs regarding the helmet laws; and

(2) limit the civil liability of those businesses.

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