Canadian Physicians Propose
      Mandated Helmet Use in the Province of Alberta


      From The Calgary Herald, June 11, 2001

      Doctor says helmet may have saved teenís life
      by Robert Walker (Reporter)

      A 16-year-old cyclistís life was saved by his helmet Sunday morning after a van drove over his head on Lower Springbank Road west of Calgary, says a city brain surgeon. Dr. John Hurlbert, who has campaigned for a compulsory bicycle helmet law in Alberta, said the teen, who is in critical but the stable condition at Foothills Hospital intensive care unit, could pull through as a result of having some protection for his head. "This just underlines the need for mandatory helmet use," said Hurlbert.

      Calgary Cross MLA Yvonne Fritz plans to introduce a bill requiring bike helmets be worn as a way to deal with a problem health-care professionals say is one of the biggest preventable causes of injury. The idea is strongly endorsed by Hurlbert, who says the vast majority of cycling-related head injuries donít have to happen.

      Government statistics show 8,000 people sought treatment in hospital emergency wards last year as a result of bicycle mishaps across the province. Of those, about 75 per month were admitted to hospital with head injuries. Two-thirds of accidents involved people under 20. Hurlbert says about 40 per cent of the 8,000 cases of bicycle injury happened in the Calgary region.

      "I am 100 per cent behind this law," he said, "We have statistics, we have scientific evidence; everything points to helmets being protective. Itís really a no-brainer. The problem is just getting people to wear them." Another neurosurgeon, Dr. Zelma Kiss, said the unnamed victim was unconscious and under observation. He has no other injuries than to his head that she is aware of, she said. "We are going to be doing more tests later on," she said. "It looked to emergency medical services like the van drove over his head. There was a crack in the helmet." Hurlbert said. "We donít know the prognosis at this point, but there is no doubt the helmet saved his life," the doctor said. "Without wearing the helmet his head would have been squashed."

      [end of article]

      Let the government minister know what you think

      Comments can be submitted to the Minister of Transportation of the Government of Alberta.

      The article and information below appeared on this page previously

      From The Calgary Sun, Thursday, March 18, 1999

      Group Tops Helmet Law

      by Todd Nogier

      An injury prevention group wants the government to force you to put a lid on it. The Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research wants the province to make it against the law to ride a bicycle without a helmet. But the centre is having a tough time getting the province to agree. "I think, in some ways, we, as care professionals, need to be more politically savvy because the opposition seems to be getting the ear of government," said Carol Beringer, injury prevention co-ordinator at the Alberta Children's Hospital.

      That's despite the fact most Albertans are in favour of making bicycle helmet usage mandatory, added Beringer, citing a recent poll which says 77% in the province favour such legislation. The Centre held a news conference yesterday to renew its pitch to the province to include mandatory helmet usage in its Traffic Safety Act to be tabled this spring.

      But advocates, neurosurgeons and head injury survivors are getting stiff opposition from a vociferous lobby of cycle enthusiasts, who say laws don't save lives -- education does.

      "The only thing mandatory helmet usage has been proven to do is reduce the number of cyclists," said John Collier, of the Alberta Bicycle Association. Collier cites studies in Australia where mandatory legislation cut the number of cyclists by more than a third.

      Transportation Minister Walter Paszkowsky would not commit on the contents of the Act. But he admits he has reservations to forcing people to put a lid on it.

      [end of article]

      It should be noted that Alberta's population generally holds the most conservative values in Canada. The current government reflects those values and is not well inclined towards the kind of intrusion this legislation represents. Both the Premier and the Minister of Transportation have expressed their reservations. However, they can expect well-financed pressure from a medical community which has a tendency to be insensitive to civil liberty issues.

      Also note that Canadian provinces are economically dependent on tourism, particularly Alberta which is visited by millions travelling to the Canadian Rockies. Most of the world's cyclists don't wear helmets, but they will be forced to if they travel on bicycle through Alberta. When New Zealand introduced a similar law, cycling tours from Europe, where helmet use is rare, were cancelled. Alberta cannot risk letting tourist dollars be spent elsewhere.

      Contact Alberta's Media

      [Note, Calgary is Alberta's largest city, but the Legislature is located in the City of Edmonton.]

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          June 2001
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