Darrell Dexter - Premier of Nova Scotia: Repeal or amend policy regarding use of helmets skateboarding
The current legislation in place regarding skateboarding in Nova Scotia has done nothing to promote safety or promote skateboarding as a positive pastime or a viable form of active transportation. We are now seeing people lose their insurance coverage due to this outrageous law:
The primary effect of this legislation has been to drive young people away from Nova Scotia and caused many people to quit skateboarding. In turn this has hurt our local economy by vilifying skateboarding and in turn not supporting local specialized retailers. Nova Scotia has done a lot to build and maintain a large number of skateparks within the province, but it hasn’t addressed the current policy regarding mandatory use of helmets regardless of age. Having an abundance of facilities is great in principle but these facilities will not attract contests or professional skateboard demos with the current policy, and the lack of these will not allow for growth within the scene or attract newcomers to try this beneficial form of recreation. Regardless of the facilities, the lack of skateboard related tourism will not make Nova Scotia a hub for skateboarding while this policy still exists.
A large number of gifted skateboarders have had to leave the province to flourish within the skateboard industry due to the policy in place within this province. Many of these skateboarders that have left to fulfill skateboarding as a career have received sponsorships from large international companies, and have had to depart to fulfill the requests and conditions of their sponsorship based upon the mandatory use of a helmet within the province. Below we have attached a quote from one of the sponsored amateur skateboarders who has had to leave to further themselves within the skateboarding industry.
“As a skateboarder in Halifax I felt unwelcomed and stereotyped by the police and the Province. On one occasion I was being given a ticket I couldn’t afford to pay for riding my skateboard at the Commons, while in the background I watched a football practice where young players were repeatedly tackling each other to the ground with much crunching and grunting, and none of the players wore helmets. I pointed this out to the officer who was writing me a ticket and he laughed at me. The policy in place in Nova Scotia seems to be less about health and safety, and more about demonizing skateboarding. While I lived there I felt constantly in fear of any police I encountered, even while not skateboarding.” –Ben Stephenson, who attended NSCAD and now resides in Montreal.
What we ask is that if the current legislation regarding helmets is not repealed, that it be amended to be mandatory for those under 16 years of age and optional for adults. We feel this is fair, as it protects children who may be inexperienced and unable to make proper decisions on their own safety at that point. It also would give adults the freedom to choose to enjoy their sport the way everyone in the rest of the world can much like legislation regarding driving, hunting, voting, and consuming alcohol.
A universal helmet law with no age limit for skateboarding has never been effective anywhere in the world*. In fact we have been unable to find any other place to compare this law to. We do know that the statistics are clear when it comes to the prevalence of head injuries by sport. Soccer, Baseball, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Sledding and Ice Skating all have much higher instances of head injuries per hospital visit**.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been any real studies on the net health effect of
skateboarding helmet laws as this broad law doesn’t exist anywhere else to the extent that it does in Nova Scotia. However if we use bicycle helmet laws as an analogue for skateboarding (disregarding the 5.9% TBI per hospital visit for skatebording VS 8.1% for cycling in the 2001-2009 CDC study) there is mountains of evidence indicating the net health effect of helmet laws is negative because of the stiff decrease in participation.*** Anecdotaly speaking, anyone who has been skateboarding in Nova Scotia for more than 10 years remembers what it was like before the helmet laws were enforced versus now.
People are using their unfounded assumptions about what skateboarding is and who participates it before using actual science and facts to draw a logical conclusion. We are not against people being safe. We just believe that a person has the right to weigh the risks of what they are doing and act accordingly. Please view our supporting documentation below and support our cause. Thank you for your time.
**Nonfatal Traumatic Brain Injuries Related to Sports and Recreation Activities Among
Persons Aged ≤19 Years --- United States, 2001--2009
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6039a1.htm?s_cid=mm6039a1_w - Table 1
***Reduction of 35-37% for cycling rate in Victoria and New South Whales - Australia after mandatory helmet laws.
Laws Passed in Alberta lead to a 51.6% net decrease in child and adolescent cycling
http://www.cycle-helmets.com/canada_helmets.html (uses Official province of Alberta Stats)
Cities that have repealed or reduced helmet laws
BicycleSafe.com explains that there is nothing wrong with wearing a helmet but the real issue is rider skill, this is mainly about bicycles but the same logic applies to
skateboards, even moreso as we have a lower amount of head injuries to begin with.
We have started a tumblr page as a place to share different sorts of media regarding this. http://halifaxhelmetreform.tumblr.com/
Here are our requests:
Item 170B(1) of The Moter Vehicle Act be removed as it should have no
bearing on a persons auto insurance or ability to be licensed.
Helmets be made either optional for all participants of the sports under
170B(1) or optional for those above a set age. 12 or 16 might be appropriate.
If a law must be applied to children in this case, then we ask that
there be an official procedure for police to follow to help improve
relations with the youth and the police.
Our reasoning is sound, the damage caused by criminalizing a recreational activity is much higher than the risk caused by not having a helmet law.
As an alternative way of encouraging safety equipment we propose that
we take the current program where police officers give helmets to kids,
but instead of telling them they'll get in trouble if they don't wear it
they come back and have some sort of reward for those that are wearing it.
We need to repair the community relationship between youth and police.
We have the infrastructure already in place to make a huge change in
people's lives and help bring people into the province! There have been
$4 million in skateparks created in Nova Scotia since skateboarding was added to the MVA. We need to be encouraging people to use them, the people of Nova Scotia need as few barriers as possible between them and a healthy lifestyle.