By Leo Glavine
Recently, some Nova Scotians have been making the news for their objection to the law requiring them to wear helmets while riding bicycles.
I respect their right to voice their opinions. However, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining Nova Scotia's all-ages helmet legislation.
Wearing a helmet in Nova Scotia became the law in 1997. As a result of the legislation and the pro-helmet culture we've established, Nova Scotia has the highest rate of helmet use in the country and the lowest rate of cycling-related brain injuries.
The Canadian Pediatric Society recently released a position statement on the need for helmet legislation to reduce the risk of head injury.
The statement outlines how such laws significantly decrease the risk of head injury, and also decrease the severity of head injuries when they happen. It states that all-ages laws like ours are more effective than laws covering just children and youth. The statement was co-authored by Dr. Natalie Yanchar, medical director of the IWK Health Centre's trauma care program.
"A helmet is your only chance of preventing a brain injury that could change you and your family's lives forever," said Dr. Yanchar. "Whether you're riding to get to work, to keep in shape, or simply to enjoy an afternoon with your friends, your helmet is only effective if you use it every time you ride."
I am both personally and professionally committed to getting Nova Scotians to be more physically active. I would love to see more people donning their helmets and safely pedalling their way to a healthier lifestyle – or choosing other ways to move more.
Through Thrive!, the province's plan for a healthier Nova Scotia, we are working with our partners to make active transportation a safe and fun option that's good for the health of both our people and our planet.
We are looking at things like bike lanes and routes, education for motorists and cyclists alike, and safe places to park bikes. We are already providing free and low-cost helmets for people who can't afford them, and helping develop multi-use trails.
One thing we will not do is change the effective helmet legislation that is helping keep Nova Scotians young and old safe from injury while they enjoy a bike ride. I encourage you and your families to always wear helmets when playing sports.
Leo Glavine is Nova Scotia’s Health and Wellness Minister