The Helmet Law in Ontario
Cyclists under 18 are required by law to wear an approved bicycle helmet when riding a bike on a roadway or sidewalk in Ontario. The law was passed on October 1, 1995. Some communities in Ontario have passed by-laws requiring cyclists under 18 to wear helmets wherever they ride.
An approved bicycle helmet is one that has been tested for use by cyclists by one of the following testing agencies:
- Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
- Snell Memorial Foundation
- American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
- British Standards Institute,
- Standards Association of Australia
Other kinds of protective helmets, such as hockey helmets, are not acceptable.
All cyclists should wear a bike helmet when they ride. It is a sure way to reduce your risk of brain and head injury in the event of a crash or collision.
Parents can be charged if they knowingly allow their children who are under 16 to ride without a bicycle helmet. The fine is $60. With court costs of $5 and the victim fine surcharge of $10, the total is $75 for a plea of guilty.
Cyclists who are 16 or 17 can be fined directly. Again, the fine is $60. With court costs of $5 and the victim fine surcharge of $10, the total is $75 for a plea of guilty.
Other fines related to bicycles can be viewed at the Ontario Highway Traffic Act page.
Summary History of Bike Helmet Law in Ontario
In July 1990, MPP Dianne Cunningham of London, in response to calls from the injury prevention community and galvanized by the head injury of a friend's child, introduced a private member's bill at Queen's Park to make bicycle helmets mandatory for all cyclists in Ontario. It died on the order paper at Queen's Park, but was reintroduced in the spring of 1991. The NDP government supported the bill.
The Toronto Cycling Committee took a lead role in identifying the issues related to a mandatory helmet law. In July, 1991, the Toronto Cycling Committee voted to support the helmet law in principle. It identified several key issues that needed to be addressed before implementation, in particular:
- a two year lead time before the bill became law to provide time to promote voluntary compliance;
- allow manufacturers time to develop the capacity to meet the expected demand;
- allow police time to develop enforcement strategies that promoted compliance in a positive way;
- broaden the message about bike safety beyond the use of helmets to include safe cycling behaviour, through such programs as CAN-BIKE, and compliance with the rules of the road.
Following a lengthy debate and consultation the law, Bill 124, was passed on July 28, 1993. The law was to come into effect on October 1, 1995.
In October 1995, the new Minister of Transportation, Al Palladini, modified the law to make it apply only to cyclists under 18. He commented that while all cyclists would benefit by wearing a helmet, adults were able to make up their own minds.
Some of the issues that arose during the debate were:
- The law does not address the root cause of bike-related injury: conflict between motor vehicles and cyclists
- The law was an imposition on personal freedom
- The cases of head trauma many health professionals were treating were seen as preventable and the law was an efficient way to reduce the number of cases
- The law can function as a useful support to education and promotion
The law when it was passed was seen as a compromise.
Research on the usefulness of the law is beginning to show that where helmet legislation exists, helmet use is higher and head injury rates related to cycling have dropped.
Currently (2003), private member's bills have been introduced in Queen's Park to extend the law to skateboarders and scooter riders, and to require a cyclist who has damaged a helmet in an accident to surrender it to police for purposes of analysis.
Other Jurisdictions with Laws: Canada, U.S., World
- Ontario - cyclists under 18; law passed, 1993, in effect as of 1995
- British Columbia - all cyclists; law passed 1996
- New Brunswick - all cyclists, in effect as of 1995
- Nova Scotia - all cyclists, in effect as of 1997
- Alberta - cyclists under 18, law passed 2001, in effect as of 2002
- Prince Edward Island - all cyclists, law passed 2002
- A number of municipalities across Canada have also passed by-laws.
As of 2002, according to SAFE KIDS, 19 States and the District of Columbia have bike helmet laws, most directed at children.
Australia and New Zealand
The states of Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales, Australia (beginning in 1991), and New Zealand (1994) have passed helmet laws.
A good resource for researching laws pertaining to bicycles in North America is available at the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition.