The provincial government introduced legislation Monday to make helmets mandatory for riders who use ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and other off-highway vehicles on public land.
Transportation Minister Brian Mason is proposing the changes to the Traffic Safety Act that would require riders to wear helmets before hitting the trails.
Alberta is one of the last Canadian jurisdictions to implement a helmet law for ATV riders.
The proposal comes after Mason announced Alberta’s intention to review current safety laws last June, three days after a 12-year-old boy was killed in an ATV rollover in the McLean Creek area southwest of Calgary
Between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2013 there were 185 ATV-related deaths.
According to the Alberta government, off-highway vehicle riders account for almost 6,000 emergency room visits each year.
A total of 185 people were killed while riding ATVs in Alberta between 2002 and 2013. Almost 80 per cent of those fatalities involved people who were not wearing helmets.
Denise Pelletier was one of those riders.
“I was like many Albertans, and Canadians I knew nothing about a brain injury until it happened to me.”
In 2001, she was thrown off an ATV and was in an induced coma for three weeks.
“Having gone through the experience myself of being thrown off the ATV without wearing the helmet, can I say that wearing a helmet would have made me not receive a head injury? That I don’t know, but it certainly would have lessened the impact,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier said she became an advocate for helmets after her injury, and now she’s pleased the government is on her side.
“It’s simple. Just take a few simple precautions. In this case, put on a helmet,” Pelletier said.
“That, with some common sense, and having awareness of your surroundings and what you’re doing. I think that takes you a long way in being safe, and looking after your well-being.”
Dr. Don Voaklander, Director of the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta, helped compile the ATV injury report.
He’s been campaigning for mandatory helmet laws for years.
“If you put a helmet law in place, typically what you’re going to find is you are going to reduce the fatalities by half. So that means 4 to 5 deaths a year prevented in Alberta.”
The government said it consulted with Albertans on how to improve safety for people riding off-highway vehicles. A total of 2,200 Albertans responded, with 65 per cent saying helmets should be mandatory.
Farm work exempt from helmet law
If the amendment passes, helmets would not be required for farm and ranch work.
Mason said they’re looking at other options for the agriculture industry.
“We realized during the debate on Bill 6 was the need to consult carefully, and proceed slowly when it comes to our agricultural community,” Mason said.
“So there is a working group that is looking at changes to the occupational health and safety legislation.”
Mason said education is an important component to the legislation.
“You just can’t force people to everything you want just by passing legislation,” Mason said.
“You need to make sure they understand why it’s important to wear a helmet. Regardless of whether they are working on a farm, a ranch, a trapline or they’re out for some fun on a Sunday afternoon with their family.”
The proposed amendments would not require helmets on private property or on First Nations and Métis settlement lands. They would also allow for regulations to define future exemptions to the amendment.
If passed, the new rules will come in to effect in May of 2017.
Article Source: CBC News Edmonton