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Should parents be charged if kids aren't wearing bike helmets?

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First, your son is hit by a car while riding his bike. Then, the police charge you with failing to make sure he was wearing a helmet.

It may seem like a cruel double-whammy, but in Ontario (and many other jurisdictions), it's the law. The case happened this weekend in Sudbury, where police say the nine-year-old boy is "lucky his injuries were not worse," after failing to stop at a stop sign, according to a piece in Northernlife.ca.

The Greater Sudbury Police are using the case to remind parents: "With the weather improving, more youths will be out on their bicycles. Parents are reminded that they are responsible to ensure that their children and teenagers under the age of 16 are wearing their bicycle helmets," reports the site.

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Toronto's municipal site outlines the Ontario law that has been in place since 1995 requiring anyone 18 and under to wear a helmet - and the $75 fine. (It also lists laws in other provinces, many of which require all cyclists to wear helmets.)

"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," it reads.

The case may fuel ongoing debate over bike-helmet laws - and the tension between personal freedom and public safety that goes with it. An Alberta mayor recently spoke out about reconsidering his previous opposition to the provinces' bike helmet laws after he had a bike accident.

Research released by Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital in 2008 showed that between 1991 and 2002, the average number of bicycle-related deaths for children one to 15 years of age decreased 52 per cent - from 13 to six deaths annually. Researchers credited the helmet legislation.

"In contrast there was no significant change in bicycle-related deaths for older adolescents and adults to whom the legislation does not apply," it reads.

Parents, do you do a helmet-check before your kids goes for a ride? Adults, do you wear helmets?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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