Bicycle Helmet Legislation

Halifax Metro/August 2010

Tom Trottier's article in the Metro entitled "Helmets great, laws aren't" (August 17th) paints a picture of helmet usage that does not jive with the copious amount of credible sources that exist on this issue. To imply that the law requiring helmet use discourages the healthy physical activity of bicycle riding and is therefore counterproductive is misguided. To further refer to "studies in Nova Scotia and Australia and other places" without citing sources is a slippery slope on the road to credibility. After all, some of us think we read somewhere that we can get slimmer by eating copious amounts of is in a study someplace.

Recent studies by the Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine at the University of Ottawa have clearly showed that new helmet legislation in provinces such as Alberta and PEI have had no impact on the numbers of recreational or commuting cyclists in these provinces. More importantly, they also show that helmet legislation is strongly associated with usage of bicycle helmets, where 73% of cyclists don helmets in Nova Scotia, where legislation applies to all ages, compared to 41% in Ontario where the law only applies to those under 18, compared to 27% in Saskatchewan where no legislation exists.

We also know that helmet usage leads to lowering of injuries and deaths. In the August 11th article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal entitled "Widespread variations exist in bike helmet laws across Canada" Alison Macpherson, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at York University spoke to research from Statistics Canada that also found Nova Scotia to have the highest rate of helmet use versus Saskatchewan, without legislation. This mirrors her past research which showed that head injury rates amongst children and youth in Canada have decreased far more significantly in provinces with helmet laws compared to those without: by 45% rather than 27%. "The best available evidence suggests that where there's a helmet law, there are fewer head injuries," she says. So, for those of us that remember the backlash when seatbelts in vehicles were first introduced, they included the misguided concern that families would not travel by automobile if they had to have a seatbelt for each passenger. There were likely some studies somewhere that confirmed that concern too. But, for the sake of the many "noggins" out there that need protecting, including Tom Trottier's, lets keep the bicycle helmet legislation where it is for our province, and encourage other provinces to follow suit. After all, the issue of whether to legislate helmet usage is really a no-brainer.

Shirley Ann Rogers, Executive Director

Dr. Natalie Yanchar, President and Medical Director, IWK Trauma Care Program

Dr. Simon Walling, Neurosurgeon and Director, ThinkFirst, Nova Scotia Chapter, Division of Neurosurgery, QEII Health Sciences Centre

Dr. John Tallon, Director, Nova Scotia Trauma Program