Legislating helmet safety

We are Canadian. You can force us to wear helmets when we ski and skate, if you want to.

Dear provincial legislators:

We are Canadian. You can force us to wear helmets when we ski and skate, if you want to.

I'm not saying Canadians---as a people---roll over and take whatever's coming. No, no. We are a strong, proud country. We resisted American invasion in the War of 1812 and we'll continue our feisty fight against American cultural domination, too (just so long as the Tories change their minds and give that bridge loan to the CBC so there's some other way for the English TV folks to get through their nights without having to plug up the programming holes with Wheel of Fortune. Then again, with Pat Sajak on the bill, my 88-year-old grandmother might start watching the CBC after all these years).

Yes, we're strong. But we don't have that bristling-against-authority streak---the one that drives the American right-to-bear-arms stuff and the one that riles up the French enough for them to hold general strikes whenever they get their knickers ina knot.

Just tell us to wear helmets, give us a little ramp-up time and boom! Thousands of head injuries a year from snows sports could disappear. A portion of the yearly estimated $100 million taxpayers shell out to treat recreational head injuries could be saved, along with lives, like that of actor Natasha Richardson, who died last week two days after hitting her head during a fall on a beginner ski slope in Quebec.

Richardson made a choice not to wear a helmet. It's the custom for winter activities---we leave risk-management choices for adults in their own hands.

And what if provincial legislators decide to take it out of our hands?

We're Canadian. We'd get used to it. A little grumbling, some letters to the editor, a few tickets issued to the particularly bold---and it would be done.

And then? Well, then people would start to wear helmets even when they weren't actually required to---the same way we clip on our seat belts the moment we get on a plane and leave them snapped for the whole flight, and the same way most Canadian adults would automatically wear a motorcycle helmet in Texas, or most Haligonians would wear a bike helmet riding on the streets of Ottawa. People would wear helmets tobogganing and cross-country skiing and maybe even snowshoeing. Probably, without even giving it a second thought.

We got over seat belt legislation; we got over helmets in hockey; we'll eventually get over less and less fighting in hockey too---god love Don Cherry and Brian Burke, but the dinosaurs of the sport are about to go extinct and the change is going to come.

As for helmets on ski hills and ice-skating rinks? We're practically begging for legislation. Or, I am, anyway. Because in my tiny empire, the kids have to wear helmets and the adults don't. And the double-standard is killing me.

The more I have to justify helmets to my kids---in advance of skiing and snowboarding and skating---and the more they probe my "it's different for adults" bullshit, the thinner my argument comes off. (And it's only the beginning---they're young enough now to clip on their helmets and pass it off as the law of the land, at least in Lowe-land. Soon, they'll be riding me like circus ponies over my nonsensical risk-management mumbo-jumbo.)

Being forced to put on a helmet by the province? It wouldn't just save money and lives. Really it would save me---and other parents I know---a lot of future false rationalizing.

So why not take the initiative and do it on my own?

Well, yeah---why?

Why, when I went to both public skates at the Dalhousie Arena Sunday, did I not see a single adult with a helmet at the morning skate and only one with head protection in the afternoon? Children? Not one, at either skate, was helmetless.

No one can predict slipping backwards at the blue line, sliding sideways off a sled going over an ice precipice on Citadel Hill or a devastating head-bonking on a beginner ski hill. No one can prevent an accident---that's why we have a special name for them. If they weren't accidents, they'd be choices.

So why do I choose not to wear a helmet when I ski or skate or snowboard?

I guess I'm just a kid too, waiting for someone bigger to tell me what to do.

Tell Lezlie Lowe what to do at lezliel@thecoast.ca

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