Monday, January 5, 2009

Wear a helmet - it's good for you

This small item (in its entirety) appeared in today’s The Ottawa Citizen:

“A busy Saturday on the Rideau Canal has prompted Ottawa paramedics to urge skaters to wear helmets. Three women, ages 66, 26, and 36, were taken to hospital, two with broken wrists and one with a back injury.”
The headline was: “Wear helmets while skating: paramedics”.


The only thing that would have prevented all these injuries would have been a ban on female skaters whose last digit of their age is a 6.

I am so sick of being told to wear a helmet for everything from bicycle riding, skiing, snowboarding, motorcycling, ski-dooing, tobogganing, skydiving (like that’s going to help in a 3000-foot plummet), ad nauseum.

Fortunately my bath is still sacrosanct. For now.


Anonymous said...

I agree, but operating a powered vehicle (ski-doo & motorcycle), you need a helmet.

Canajun said...

I expect from that comment that you are neither a motorcyclist nor a ski-dooer and so this relentless progression to living in a complete nanny-state hasn't yet affected you much.
The issue is personal choice and personal responsibility. I may "choose" to wear a helmet under certain conditions because that's the smart thing to do, but the only reason I "need" to wear one is because the law says I'm too stupid to be able to properly judge risk and take appropriate care.

Anonymous said...

Its all fine and good until you crack your head on something and your IQ drops by 70 points and expect the state to look after your welfare.

You only have to look to the U.S. states that dont have motorcycle helmet laws to see not everyone wears them unless they have to.

JetSetter said...

My wife is neurologist who studies recovery of function after TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) Her research population is teenage boys, most of whom are in diapers being fed by tubes, oddly because it's mostly teenage boys who are too cool to wearing a helmet while skateboarding.

You sound so brash and cool with your libertarian anti helmet stance, but when it's your family who are the ones wiping your ass because you can't do it anymore then I bet they'll wish you'd worn one.

Ross said...

In certain parts of Canada, one must wear a helmet to drive a Zamboni.

penlan said...

I will now skip birthdays that end with the no. 6 in them. ;)

Accident Researcher said...

To Jetsetter,

Your wife will be familiar with TBI data from the Canadian Institute For Health Information that shows almost 50% of all major head trauma (over 2500 in Ontario) results from car use.

A head doesn't distinguish between activities when it gets clobbered, so based on your own aversion to wearing nanny-state diapers, I suggest you wear a helmet when a passenger in your car.

To really reduce the chance of your wife having to administer sanitary services to you perhaps you had better wear one all the time.

Canajun said...

The issue is not whether helmet use reduces brain injuries but whether the state should have any more right to mandate their use because of the possibility of injury than it does to restrict our diets (diabetes, obesity, heart disease), enforce fitness programs (obesity, heart disease), criminalise smoking (heart disease, cancer), criminalise alcohol use (anti-social behaviour, liver disease)or control any of a number of other daily activities that can, under some circumstances be bad for you.

All of which, incidentally, cost the state far more (orders of magnitude) than brain injuries from all sources, not just vehicular accidents, so the cost to the state issue is simply a red herring trotted out to justify the denial of an individual's right to decide how much personal risk they are willing to accept.

And make no mistake, every time someone stands up in the legislature and enacts another law to protect us from ourselves, we lose a little more freedom to choose. And as long as we accept that, we must also accept that some day a Big Mac will be only available from some shady guy on a streetcorner for $20 a piece.

Accident Researcher said...


Having campaigned (successfully) against nanny state government laws, I agree 100%.

In most cases, such laws are promoted by hypocrites like Jetsetter who seem to believe they are better judges of what's in my interests than I am.

George Jonas once said, "the same human types who used to call for a command economy now instinctively turn to commanding the values, habits and pastimes of others".

... and we must never forget the impact on freedom of command economies.

Canajun said...

Accident Researcher,


I don't know if you are in Ontario or not, but if so, we can use your help again with Bill 117 - another misguided attempt by government to control the population.

Lots of info here: and here:

What gets me about folks like Anonymous and Jetsetter is that they are unwilling or unable to see the difference between doing something because it's the right thing to do, and doing it because the government forces you to.

Canajun said...

Penlan - either that or spend every 10th year hiding under the blankets :-)

Accident Researcher said...

I'm in Ontario and I have sent a message to the Lonely Rider.

Canajun said...

Accident Researcher.

Thank you. Every voice helps.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with people that want to do stupid things like smoke or drink their liver into oblivion.

I am tired of public funds being diverted away from things we need to things like search and rescue for skiers who go into out of bounds areas or providing health care for people who didnt take simple proper precations.

The difference between the smoker and the head trauma victom is, the smoker and drinker pay their health care through the large taxes levied against them. There is no insurance plan to cover the cost burnden from people doing stupid preventable things.

The security that the welfare state provides doesnt come without a price, the key is to keep that price to things that present a real risk.

Canajun said...

Well that we can agree on. Along with rights come responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is dealing with the results of your own actions.
In the case of search and rescue operations for people who go back-country, by all means, charge them with those costs. It then becomes a factor in their decision to take that risk in the first place. A few highly-publicised 5-figure invoices would quickly reduce the number of people skiing off-piste - or spawn a whole new insurance business. Either way, the taxpayer saves.
And as for head trauma for vehicular accidents, drivers already have insurance policies that cover those expenses, paid for by the insured person (not the taxpayer).
So, yeah, making stupid decisions can have negative consequences, but we (society) need to make it clear whose responsibility it is to deal with the aftermath. But that becomes my decision to make, not some politician's.

Accident Researcher said...

I have a problem with the collectivist logic that justifies the state denial of one right to choose - use or not of personal "safety" equipment - by citing the cost to the collective of state health care, a monopoly that came about by the denial of another right to choose - the provision of healthcare.

Denial of choice inevitably leads to more denial of choice.

Canada's model is shared by only two other states - North Korea and Cuba.

Anonymous said...

Yes there is insurance on registered vehicles but liability can be as low as $250,000. That is really not enough to care for someone who suffers a serious brain injury and is not mentally capable of taking care of themselves anymore. There is no insurance required for offroad vehicles such as dirt bikes, quads or ski-doos.

Accident Researcher,
Our health care system has no real bearing to my argument. All states, including right wing western countries such as the U.S. have wards of the state who are incapable of taking care of themselves. That means taxpayers pick up the bill. When someone declares bankrupcy because they can no longer cover there debt from medical expenses, again society gets stuck with the bill.

sassy said...

Say what - I can now take a bath without an helmet?

Jetsetter - Head injuries are horrible, this I know from first hand heart breaking circumstances (no not me)

Canajun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canajun said...

So the pro-helmet argument is simply this: If an individual participates in any activity that may result in a head injury that could possibly cost the state money, then we have the right to mandate helmet use to ensure that those costs are minimized or avoided.

Or to put it in a broader perspective: The state has the right to regulate health care costs by regulating the unhealthy behaviour of individual citizens.

Well at least that’s honest, even if ridiculously inconsistent in its application.

And so I come back to an earlier point. If we, as a society, agree with that statement when applied to all of society and not just a select, under-represented subset, then we should also all agree with the state mandating healthy diets, requiring personal fitness testing, banning tobacco and alcohol products, enforcing helmet laws for cyclists and children in strollers, requiring swimmers to wear life vests at all times, restricting the sale of ladders to home owners, and so on. But of course we don’t do those things for a variety of, usually political, reasons.

Until we do (and I am certainly NOT advocating that we do), using health care costs to justify a restriction in individual rights is not only wrong but hypocritical in the extreme.

Anonymous said...

That over simplifies the argument a little but is in the park. I do not believe anyone should have the right to put an undue excesive burden on society.

If you have ever seen the statistics of auto fatalities that involved a driver intoxicated by alcohol, its incredible. In this case society is justified in taking away your right to drive while intoxicated.

Now that doesnt mean that we all need to walk around all day wearing a helmet, there needs to be some common sense applied to mandating safety equipment to activities that have a high frequency of impact (such as playing ice hockey) or a catastrophic consequence in the case of accident (seat belts or motorcycle helmets).

Your efforts should be put to fighting regulation where common sense says its not required as opposed to fighting regulations that enforce something that anyone with common sense would do anyway.

Again common sense would dictate what types of incedents could put undue burden on society. Breaking your arm is not in the same bracket as breaking your skull.

Canajun said...

Oh that it were only so, that we could rely on common sense to dictate sound policy. As more than one wag has stated, the problem with common sense is that it’s not so common. And the problem with flexible principles is that people will apply them flexibly, based on their own biases and prejudices – and no one is better (worse?) at doing so than our elected officials.

Case in point: Frank Klees, an Ontario MPP stood up in the Legislature recently and said, “(Members) have heard me time and again argue against much of what I've referred to as the nanny state legislation that this government brings forward from time to time.” He then voted in favour of the very piece of “nanny state legislation” (Bill 117 if you’re interested) being debated at the time.

So the selective application of principle is simply the definition of the slippery slope. There is always someone else out there who thinks they know what’s best for you, whether you agree or not, and whether they are right or not, because it's "just common sense".

On the same Bill 117, Dr. Jaczek, the bill’s sponsor, said in response to an interviewer’s observation about injuries to children bicycling with parents, “I’ll probably be pursuing those as well.” Using yet another cliché, if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile, so while you may not one day actually be forced to wear a helmet while walking around, you could one day be prevented from bicycling with your young child. You could be forced to wear a helmet while cross-country skiing or tobogganing. You could be forced to wear helmets and wrist guards when rollerblading or recreational skating. All in the name of "common sense".

And when that happens it will be too late for “I told you so.”

Sturdi said...

Helmet laws are great, as long as you view your fellow citizens as nothing more than livestock. Herd management is so much fun, though.

But for those who firmly oppose them, and have no need to debate the issue, we have a group for you. We're "Bikers for Bill Sponsors," and our website is Stop by if you want to spend less time fighting the helmet law and more time enjoying your freedom.