ST. GEORGE – Longboard popularity and production is on the rise, with coincidental safety concerns.
Unfortunately, it usually takes witnessing or experiencing an accident to convince most riders of the inherent dangers. Like many extreme sports, serious athletes and casual riders alike continue to push the bounds of speed, technicality and, unfortunately, risk as well. And yet, many shirk the easiest safety measure available: The helmet.
Last month, a young rider crashed his longboard on the Highway 18 Trail. Ben Wolverton was transported by Life Flight to University Medical Center in Las Vegas after sustaining serious injuries. The accident, among other longboard-related accidents, spurs discussion and draws attention concerning the safety of these sports, and the use of area trails for these activities.
The posted rules for St. George trails recommend safety equipment and set a speed limit, but they do not require longboard riders to wear helmets – and neither does Utah law. Wearing a helmet drastically reduces the chance of severe head injury, yet a statistically small number of people use them. On the other hand, all city events involving in-line skates, skateboards, and bicycles require helmets – but, all related deaths nationwide in 2011 and in 2012 occurred outside of organized events.
“It can happen at any moment. You never know when or how you’re going to fall,” Kris Ripplinger, Lip Trix skate shop owner, said. “Riders just need to get in the habit of wearing helmets. Everyone’s going bigger, so they need to be safe.”
Although not all fatalities can be prevented with the use of helmets, the risk is minimized. An awareness of personal skill levels and the use of protective equipment will lead to smarter, safer riding. Abiding by the 20 mph speed limit on trails will also reduce the chance of serious injury – to the rider and to others using the trail.
“Riders just need to be courteous like everyone else,” Officer Brett Huish, with the SGPD mountain bike patrol, said. “We don’t have a real problem with people speeding on the trails, but when we do we work hard to rectify it before it becomes a big issue.”
The cost of a helmet is relatively low, with some as cheap as $40. This is a small price to pay, when the inevitable accidents and injuries can potentially affect people for the rest of their lives.
“Helmets single-handedly make the biggest difference in the results of an accident,” Huish said. “If they’re wearing helmets, they typically walk away from an accident.”
Ed. Note: Ben Wolverton has been steadily recovering from his April 3 longboarding accident. As of May 24, he is currently at Children’s Primary Hospital in Salt Lake City undergoing rehabilitation. Updates on his progress can be found on the Facebook page of David Farland, Ben Wolverton’s father.
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