Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ontario Upholds Helmet Law

Baljinder Badesha lost his argument in an Ontario court yesterday that wearing a motorcycle helmet infringed his religious obligation to wear a turban. Manitoba and BC Sikhs (seen here) are allowed an exemption.
I personally don't like the idea of anyone riding a bike without a helmet but it's their religion, not mine, and I guess as long as they don't endanger me when I'm using the road I haven't got much room to complain.


Canajun said...

While I wouldn't ride without one (especially on the highway - tried it once before it became law and felt pretty naked!) I believe it should be a personal choice how big a bubble one wants to wrap around onesself when taking part in any dangerous or potentially dangerous activity.
If someone kills himmself taking unnecessary risk, that's a direct result of his own bad choice. Not my problem.
And while I appreciate the we-all-absorb-the-medical-costs argument, I'm not personally convinced that the net result of helmet laws has been any quantifiable reduction in long-term health costs.

The Mound of Sound said...

I agree Canajun. Wouldn't think of riding without a helmet. While I can see the Sikh religious argument, I do have trouble accepting that they should expect the public healthcare system to bear the economic cost associated with their exercise of religious freedom. No one is making anyone ride a motorcycle. If they want to run additional risks, why should the rest of society be liable for the consequences. Would it be unfair to require someone choosing to ride without a helmet to carry additional insurance to cover the extra medical costs that can flow from that choice?

The Mound of Sound said...

On your other point, you should ask the staff of any chronic care hospital about the consequences they experienced from helmetless riders. My mother was a nurse in one of those institutions back when I began riding, before helmets were mandatory. Don't think for a second that helmets don't save lives and avoid devestating injury. They do.

Canajun said...

No disputing they save lives - as do seat belts, bicycle helmets, and ABS braking systems - but my point is that an individual should be able to assess the risk and make a personal decision whether that risk is within their own tolerance level. If they make the wrong choice, they have to live with the consequences, as bad as they might be.
As for additional insurance coverage, I have no issue with that - although it may be a bit hard to find an underwriter!
And while I don't recall ever seeing such stats, someone somewhere must have done an analysis of the medical costs associated with having helmetted versus helmetless riders. While the cost of caring for brain injured patients is high, I would be interested to know if the overall population costs for long-term medical care as a result of motorcycle accidents saw a significant decrease as a result of the helmet laws. After all, without a helmet, mortality rates are much higher, hence no medical costs. And no helmet will prevent other physical damage (as well as potential brain damage) to riders who might otherwise have been killed. Brutal, I know, but germaine to the discussion.

Fish said...

I've got to admit that I'm stumped on this one.

I generally like the idea of allowing adults to make their own decisions, but part of me is inclined to say that if the rest of us should be subject to helmet laws, shouldn't we all?

Then again, there are cultural issues at hand here.

Anonymous said...

I think ur all missing the point, one law for everybody, one canada, dont like it, ride a car or wear a helmet...

Mike said...

I think everyone should have the choice. When I was in India in November, I discovered that something like 80% of the people drive motor bikes and few wear helmets. They don't have many accidents and drive slower and more cautiously than we do. Hell, I saw entire families of 5 - mom, dad and three kids - riding on a 250 CC Honda.

This guy can probably drive a bike better than most Canadians.

What ever happened to personal choice and personal responsibility?

Of course, I'm sure anon would be on our side if this guy had been a white biker named O'Leary and a member of Satan's Choice...

The Mound of Sound said...

The motherlode of data on the injuries/helmet stuff reposes with the Snell Institute. It's all there and it's damned convincing. When I was a youngster and rode through the UK, Europe and N.Africa I had a Snell F-1 helmet and was that ever cool. Now, yes, children, I'm admitting I'm getting on just a bit in years but, as of last year, I was still able to ride 10-hrs. in a day, so there!

Anonymous said...

If I as a Caucasian Canadian who has to wear a helmit in order to operate a motocycle...then everyone should have too as well in this country. My religion doesn't tell me I should break the law why should theirs. Cheers

Anonymous said...

I think that it is out-right stupid to legislate personal safety. It should be the roll of government to educate on safety (if it so desires), not remove personal choice and liberty. Should we all be required to wear helmets every minute of our waking day? That would additionally prevent more death and injury. I also can't believe that all of Canada legislates bicycle helmets. Do you have any freedoms there? I do have one additional question, is helmet legislation considered a liberal or conservative point of view?

Thanks eveyone

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm guessing Anon that you're one of our southern cousins. We're so alike and yet, in so many ways, opposite. Helmet laws are provincially mandated and we have conservative, liberal and socialist provincial governments so take your pick.

Our society just doesn't see helmet laws as an unwarranted intrusion on personal freedom. It's a question of where the line is drawn. The United States does require cars to be equipped with seat belts and air bags and states require vehicle occupants to wear those seatbelts so it's not a big step from there to mandate helmets for motorcyclists.

Canada is certainly not unique in motorcycle helmet laws. Don't try riding in Europe without one and there are plenty of other places with the same laws.

I agree that requiring bicycle helmets has a degree of nanny-state thinking to it but c'est la vie.

But as for legislating personal safety that is a standard practice everywhere, including the United States. Car seats for kids, safety helmets on construction sites, and on and on and on.

This is not to say I don't have a measure of sympathy for my fellow, hatless bikers. I do. Where I have difficulty is with the social costs of the consequences that can befall this risk taking.

Do you think it would be fair for our public health care system to bear the cost of disabling head injuries sustained due to helmetless riding? And what of passengers? Should the rider not be required to at least carry a suitable helmet for the passenger so that person has a choice?

One thing I can tell you is that, after a bit of grumbling, people learn to live with helmet laws just as they acclimate to smoking bans in bars.

It comes down to a societal choice. If one society chooses not to require helmets, that's fine. If another sees things differently, that's fine too.


gloria said...

Toronto, Canada Baljinder Badesha never imagined that his religious devotion would compel him to race a motorcycle around an Ontario speedway to test whether turbans unravel at high speeds.The bizarre image of 39 year old Badesha's experiment last year conducted under the auspices of the Ontario Human Rights Commission was evoked during a constitutional challenge to a law that forces motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.

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