Posts Tagged ‘child safety’

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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