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]
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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.
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