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Skiing Helmets Can Help Save Lives, But Should They Be Mandatory?
No more white powder antics without protective headgear this winter. In Nova Scotia anyway.

Ski helmets can save lives. Helmets in general can, really. This is the basic function of protective headgear, and its an indisputable fact that bike helmets, motorcycle helmets, hockey helmets, and ski helmets go a long way towards preventing traumatic head injuries. If they didn’t, governments wouldn’t require that they be worn, and people wouldn’t voluntarily wear them. In fact, the lastpersonImaware of who disputed the use of motorcycle helmets, participating in a group protest ride against mandatory helmet laws in New York State, crashed during the protest, flying over his Harley’s handlebars and dying of–you guessed it–a traumatic head injury. Nova Scotia made waves recently with an announcement that they are mandating the wearing of ski helmets in order to prevent more deaths or injuries as a result of skiers not wearing protective headgear. They claim that a less-than-staggering 11 people have suffered severe head injuries in the province since 2000, all related to not wearing a helmet. It’s a figure that Chris Selley of the National Post called “statistically insignificant,” which is an understatement. The law will likely take effect in November 2012, and will be enforced by health bylaw officers who will patrol the 3 skill hills in the province, issuing $250 tickets per infraction. Enforcement will likely set the province back some hard-earned taxpayer cash, but lest anyone assume that the government is wholly altruistic in their concern over skiers health, hear this. Lynne Fenerty, a research nurse with the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre’s division of neurosurgery, told CBC that the cost to the province for treating someone with traumatic head injuries is $400,000 annually. This is a steep price to pay for an injury that could have easily been prevented by a $50 helmet. But again, the number of affected victims is so “statistically insignificant” that the cost for treatment could be twice as high, paling in comparison to the cost of drafting and enforcing the legislation. Although helmet use is mandatory for children in most parts of the country, the Ministry of Health in Nova Scotia found that people who stick with sports that require helmets tend to shed them with age, despite risking more major injuries; messy hair and too-strong a concern for safety are, apparently, a major turn-off among teens. Within a week of the announcement, groups began pressuring other jurisdictions to follow the Maritime province’s lead–the first province to enact such a law in Canada. Manitoba has stated that they will not seek to replicate the Nova Scotia helmet law (another province positively known for its ski hills). The Yukon is currently mulling it over. Still, Ottawa has joined the mix, announcing a recent bylaw that would require children ten and under to wear helmets while skating at indoor municipal rinks. They take safety precautions one step further by insisting that “weak” skaters of any age, however defined, are also required to wear helmets. CBC polled over 3,100 readers with the question “Should helmets be mandatory on Canada’s ski slopes?” and participants were clearly divided: 48.8% were in favour, while 48.2% were opposed. Does this mandatory helmet law in Nova Scotia take concern with safety too far? Is this the Nanny-state run amok, or simply good policy to keep children and those participating in dangerous activities safe? I suppose your answer depends on whether you consider 11 injuries in 11 years “statistically insignificant” or not.

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