Posts Tagged ‘bike helmets’

I’m not surprised that many people aren’t big on mandatory bike helmets; it’s a big inconvenience to wear a helmet when it’s 35 degrees outside.  In fact, it’s so uncomfortable that I sometimes consider shaving my head in summer to get some kind of relief.

But here’s the issue: bike helmets can prevent brain injury and death.  Unfortunately, we just had a death of a child in this province that probably could have been avoided if a helmet had been worn.  The problem with the argument of “common sense” is that common sense doesn’t actually include knowing just how powerful an impact a fall from a bicycle can bring.  It’s the same situation with booster seats; we aren’t all born with an inherent sense that seat belts aren’t designed for young children.

So in my mind, the best way to ensure that children are wearing bike helmets as often as possible is to make bike helmets mandatory for children.  If expansion of the project to provide children from lower income families with free helmets is necessary, it should take place as well.  Adults could be left to decide on their own, although it’s a bad idea for a parent to demonstrate to their children that helmets are only for kids.

The strangest thing about the NDP government in Manitoba is that with bike helmets and booster seats, it is felt that an education program is the right course, while a bill has been drawn up for consideration that fines people who interfere with service animals in any way.

Offence — person interfering with service animal
2(1)        No person shall touch, feed, impede or interfere with a service animal, without lawful excuse or authority.
Offence — person allowing animal to interfere with service animal
2(2)        No person who owns an animal or has possession or control of an animal shall allow that animal to touch, impede or interfere with a service animal, without lawful excuse or authority.
3           A person who contravenes section 2 is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction
(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not more than $5,000; and
(b) for a second or subsequent offence, to a fine of not more than $10,000.


This is different than laws such as that in the state of Wisconsin:

Act 353, Casey’s Law, creates new crimes related to the harassment of service dogs and requires a person convicted of harassing a service dog to pay restitution for any pecuniary loss, as defined in the act, suffered as a result of the crime. The act defines a “service dog” as a dog that is trained for the purpose of assisting a person with a sensory, mental, or physical disability or accommodating such a disability (Section 951.01 (5), Wisconsin Statutes).
The new law allows any person to provide notice to another person that his or her behavior is interfering with the use of a service dog and to request that the behavior stop.  The notice may be given in any manner. After receiving that notice and request, a person may not recklessly or intentionally interfere with the use of the service dog by obstructing or intimidating the dog or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the dog or its user. In addition, the act prohibits recklessly or intentionally allowing one’s dog to interfere with the use of a service dog. Recklessly interfering is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for 90 days or both. Intentionally interfering is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for 9 months or both. If a person recklessly injures a service dog or recklessly allows his or her dog to injure a service dog, he or she is also guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
Under the act, a person who intentionally injures a service dog or intentionally allows his or her dog to injure a service dog is guilty of a Class I felony, which is punishable by a fine of $10,000 or a sentence of imprisonment and extended supervision for 3.5 years or both. Recklessly causing the death of a service dog is also a Class I felony.


The difference here is not just the wording but also the spirit of the Manitoba bill vs. the Wisconsin law.  The Manitoba bill means that if my daughter runs over and pets a service dog she’s guilty of the same offense as a person who kicks a police dog.  If my daughter pets a service dog and the handler of that service dog asks that she stop, and I allow my daughter to continue, that in my mind constitutes willful interference.  But that’s not how the Manitoba bill reads.

In theory, the legislative process is supposed to allow for improvements in the text of bills such as this before they can be passed into law and given royal assent.  We’ll have to wait and see if this law is improved upon before the Premier decides to pass it.

Meanwhile, Liberal bills for mandatory booster seats and mandatory bike helmets were not even considered by the NDP government.  There was no discussion of improving the bills, or of compromise… that’s not how Mr. Doer runs his province.

I think the best way to demonstrate the odd approach of the NDP is to quote a comment writer on the Free Press website:

Posted by:ErikW
June 10, 2009 at 7:04 AM
“Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said during Tuesday’s debate the province wants to opt for an education campaign to encourage all cyclists to wear a helmet. The province also hands out free helmets to many low-income children.”

And yet the NDP has no problem introducing a bill to make a first time offender pay up to $5,000 for interfering with a service animal?

Let me get this straight: an education campaign aimed at getting kids to wear helmets would work, but an education campaign aimed at informing people about the dangers of interfering with a service animal would not work? I admit I don’t have the statistics, but I suspect there are fewer injuries incurred when a service animals is interfered with than there are from children being hurt while riding bicycles.

It would seem that injured children need a better lobby group within the NDP.

from Winnipeg Free Press

I’m not opposed to the passage of an appropriate and properly-written bill for the protection of service animals, and if proper amendments were made such a bill could be a good thing.  But it is ridiculous that for service animals legislation was chosen without education even being considered, while for child safety education alone is considered the only reasonable solution by the NDP.

What’s next?  Perhaps the NDP should tell MP Joy Smith that she ought to change her federal human trafficking bill: rather than a five year minimum sentence, people who buy and sell children should just be forced to attend a weekend seminar, complete with instructional videos and a framed certificate of completion.  That should stem the tide.

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The NDP has decided that Dr. Gerrard’s private member’s bill for mandatory booster seats for children under 8 years old is not worth a second reading.  Despite the fact that there is no dispute about the necessity of booster seats for all children under 80 lbs and less than 5 feet tall, the NDP government has decided that booster seats are a lifestyle choice.

We believe in education instead of legislation.

Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux  (Winnipeg Free Press, Jun 2, 2009)

Lemieux’s reasoning is that a voluntary campaign will gradually increase the use of booster seats, since bike helmets have become more commonplace among children.

First of all, I personally believe that bike helmets should be mandatory for children, as they should be for skateboarding, skiing/snowboarding, and equestrian activities.  Brain injury is very likely to result from a serious head-first fall if a helmet is not worn.  If the concern is cost, the government could look at various incentives to make the purchase easier.

But more importantly, there are two very big reasons why it is ridiculous to compare bike helmet use to booster seat use:

  1. Most cycling accidents resulting in death or serious injury are on higher speed thoroughfares, as opposed to residential streets and sidewalks.  These accidents usually involve adult cyclists, as children are less likely to be found riding bikes on high-speed routes.  The chance of a child riding a bike on a busy street without a helmet is much, much smaller than the chance of a child sitting in a car without a booster seat.  That would be true even without a bike helmet education campaign.  There are far more car accidents involving children than bike accidents on high-speed streets, and those car accidents have led to child deaths.
  2. Bike helmets are much better known to the public than booster seats, and the rules of use are easy to understand: everyone should wear a bike helmet.  Adults make their own decisions on when to wear their bike helmet, but children should always be told to wear theirs.  Booster seats are not only less visible (even if an education campaign was launched, they still won’t be outside where everyone will notice them), and they are also less understood.  How many parents know when a booster seat should be used?  How many parents are aware of the fact that seatbelts are designed for a 165 lb male, and that a 60 lb child cannot handle the pressure caused by the seatbelt in a crash?  How many parents have heard that in Saskatchewan, children four to eight years old strapped into adult seat belts are 33 times more likely to be injured or killed than children in child restraints?

My opinion is that the NDP government knows full well that booster seats are a more important safety requirement than bike helmets, and that mandatory booster seats will save lives.  I would think it’s pretty hard to find a politician in North America who would oppose such a bill, which is why booster seats are mandatory in every province except Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and are also becoming mandatory in the large majority of US states, including Texas, where legislation similar to Dr. Gerrard’s will take effect on September 1st, 2009.  Our neighbours in North Dakota currently require mandatory booster seats for children under the age of 7, but use the same height and weight minimums for adult seat belt use.

So why is the NDP wanting to be in last place for legislation that saves lives?  The only answer I can think of was also mentioned in the Winnipeg Free Press:

A spokesman for the Manitoba Car Seat Coalition said it will lobby the NDP to change their minds.

And they may do that. The Doer government has a history of reworking opposition private member’s bills into their own legislation.

Winnipeg Free Press, Jun 3, 2009

Only time will tell if the NDP will introduce legislation in the fall that will include mandatory booster seats.  If they do, we can expect to wait even longer before such a law will be passed and take effect.  Like other initiatives the NDP has sat on until they could introduce it themselves, mandatory booster seats will have to wait until Premier Doer decides that it’s the right time politically to protect the lives of Manitobans.

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