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Helmet Safety Bill

In the last Congress, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced the Christen O'Donnell Equestrian Helmet Safety Act of 2004. This legislation is named after his constituent, Christen O'Donnell, who was thrown off her horse while riding in a ring. Although she was wearing a helmet and landed in four inches of sand, her injuries were fatal.

Last year's legislation did not include a federal mandate to wear a helmet during equestrian activities or impose any requirements or restrictions on equestrian organizations. Rather, it called for the development of a federal safety standard for equestrian helmets by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The legislation gave the CPSC a year to develop the final standard.

Until the final standard was complete, the legislation would have established an interim safety standard, which was the American Society for Test and Materials (ASTM) standard designated as F 1163. All new helmets that were manufactured and sold would have nine months after this bill became law to meet the interim safety standard.

Once a final standard was developed, if a helmet was sold that did not meet the requirements established by the Commission, it would be deemed a violation of the Consumer Product Safety Act. The legislation would have placed the enforcement responsibilities on the CPSC, not equestrian organizations.

The legislation would also have authorized the Secretary of Commerce to award grants to states, public organizations and private, nonprofit organizations, for activities that encourage individuals to wear approved equestrian helmets.

Grants could be used to:
(1) Encourage individuals to wear approved equestrian helmets;
(2) Provide assistance to individuals who may not be able to afford approved equestrian helmets to enable such individuals to acquire such helmets; and
(3) Educate individuals and their families on the importance of wearing approved equestrian helmets in a proper manner in order to improve equestrian safety.

Sen. Dodd intends to introduce a similar bill in this Congress and has asked for industry input on the legislation.

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