Delaware Lawmakers Act on Racing Safety Measures

Jockeys would be required to wear safety helmets and flak jackets during races and workouts under legislation approved June 22 by the Delaware House of Representatives.

The bill also would require harness drivers to wear flak jackets in races and workouts. Delaware already has regulations in place for safety helmets for drivers.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Bill Oberle, who in early June said he planned to push for comprehensive safety measures for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing in the wake of the death of harness driver Hal Belote in a May 15 racing accident at Harrington Raceway in Delaware. Under the vest and helmet bill, the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission and Delaware Harness Racing Commission would promulgate the safety regulations.

In a related matter, the Delaware House and Senate both passed a resolution creating the Harness and Horse Racing Safety Task Force. The panel will "review and recommend appropriate measures on the need and ability to provide appropriate medical, paramedic, or (emergency medical technician) coverage in order to ensure adequate medical care at all harness and horse racing events," according to the resolution.

The resolution sponsored by Oberle says the task force will have 15 members: a member of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; a member of the Senate appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate; the chairman of the harness racing commission or a designee; the chairman of the Thoroughbred racing commission or a designee; the president of the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association or a designee; the president of the Delaware Standardbred Owners Association or a designee; one representative from each of the state's three racetracks--Delaware Park, Harrington, and Dover Downs; a jockey appointed by the riding colony at Delaware Park; a driver appointed by the Standardbred owners' association; a paramedic appointed by the Kent County governing body; a paramedic appointed by the New Castle County governing body; the director of the state fire school or a designee; and the state emergency medical service medical director or a designee.

Another resolution approved by the House creates a smaller task force to study and recommend improvements concerning the use of outriders and "chase vehicles" at the state's racetracks. The panels must report their findings to state officials by Jan. 15, 2007.