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Expanding Mandatory Helmet Requirements

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Resolution Category: 
Provincial Scope 8
Subject: 
Year: 
2017
Status: 
Complete
Sponsor(s): 
Grande Prairie, City of
Active Clauses: 

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association requests the Government of Alberta (GOA) amend the Vehicle Equipment Regulation to include mandatory helmet requirements for riders younger than 18 years of age while skateboarding, in-line skating and using a scooter.

Whereas Clauses: 

WHEREAS head injuries are the number one cause of serious injury and death to youth participating in wheeled activities such as skateboarding, in-line skating, using a scooter and cycling;1

WHEREAS on average the human skull is less than one centimeter thick and can be shattered by an impact of only 7 to 10 km/h; 2

WHEREAS wearing a helmet while participating in wheeled activities can reduce the participant’s risk of head injury by at least 45 percent; 3 and

WHEREAS Section 112 of the Vehicle Equipment Regulation (VER) only requires approved helmets be worn by children/youth riding bicycles.

Resolution Background: 

The Government of Alberta enacted mandatory helmet legislation for bicycle riders under the age of 18 on May 1, 2002. Only four years later, helmet use in Alberta increased from 75% to 92% among children younger than 13 years of age and from 30% to 63% among youth aged 13 to 17. 4

The existing helmet legislation remains effective but additional wheeled activities such as skateboarding, in-line skating and riding a scooter have grown in popularity among youth and are often used interchangeably. These activities represent a similar degree of risk as bicycles, yet they remain omitted in the current helmet legislation.

Wheeled activities are a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Establishing mandatory helmet rules for all wheeled activities consistently across municipalities and leveraging Provincial resources towards education campaigns is recommended to both increase helmet use and reduce the risk of head injuries for children and youth.

References:
1(n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, Maryland. For Parents: Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboard, and Scooter Safety | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Retrieved August 1, 2017, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/non-traumatic_em...
2(2012, June 20). Montreal Children's Hospital. Calling for a law making bicycle helmets mandatory for children under the age of 18 | Montreal Children's Hospital. Retrieved August 1, 2017, from http://www.thechildren.com/news-and-events/latest-news/calling-law-makin...
3(2016, March). Safe Kids Worldwide. Bicycle, Skate and Skateboard Safety Fact Sheet (PDF) | Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved August 1, 2017, from http://www.safekids.org/fact-sheet/bicycle-skate-and-skateboard-safety-f...
4 Karkhaneh M, Rowe BH, Saunders LD, Voaklander DC, Hagel BE. Bicycle helmet use four years after the introduction of helmet legislation in Alberta, Canada. Accident Analysis and Prevention 2011:43(3):788-96

Government Response: 

The Minister’s response to the 2017 resolution notes municipalities have the authority under the Municipal Government Act to pass bylaws requiring youth to use helmets for wheeled activities.

AUMA Notes: 

While evidence supports the assertion that wearing a helmet during wheeled activities reduces the risk of head injury, it is unclear whether requiring helmet use through provincial legislation would be more effective than enacting a municipal bylaw. Should a municipality choose to pass a bylaw to require all wheeled-activity riders under 18 to wear a helmet, that municipality can also develop local education and bylaw enforcement strategies to support the prioritization of helmet use. Should the province pass similar legislation, it is unlikely that the RCMP would prioritize the related enforcement, given Alberta’s increased crime rates and existing RCMP vacancies. Therefore, municipalities would still need to direct resources towards local enforcement efforts.  

Additionally, the Traffic Safety Act was amended in December 2016 to create helmet requirements for anyone driving, operating, riding in or on, or being towed by, an Off-Highway Vehicle on public land. The new law came into effect in May 2017. Considering the NDP’s ambitious legislative agenda and the provincial election in 2019, it is improbable that the province will make amending the Traffic Safety Act a priority over the next few years.

AUMA Comments: 
Accepts government response