In the wake of a recent constitutional challenge of BC's
helmet law by an unrepresented individual, and the vigorous debate
thereon, it behooves me to comment further on the merit of this
challenge. There is a tendency to confuse law with political
issues. In my view this confusion is at the heart of the
Ron Van der Eerden was given a ticket for not wearing a helmet
while riding a bicycle, contrary to the Motor Vehicle Act.
He says the relevant provision of the Motor Vehicle Act
violates his Charter rights, particularly his right to life,
liberty and security, and his right to equality before and equal
protection and benefit of the law.
The challenge stems from Mr. Van der Eerden's belief,
supported to some extent by a number of studies, that helmets deter
many people from cycling. Mature cycling jurisdictions such as
Copenhagen shows that safety is in numbers. Despite a relatively
large unhelmeted cycling population, those jurisdictions show much
lower crash rates. The Charter challenge is an effort to make
cycling safer by abolishing helmets, thereby increasing the number
of cyclists, and in turn cycling safety in general.
On the other side of the debate, there are those concerned about
the recovery of health care costs in this Province. They cite these
increasing costs and suggest that health care costs related to
brain injuries ought not to be born by the public in circumstances
where a cyclist chooses not to wear a helmet. A new statute has
arrived called the Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
Although it does not apply to cyclists injured at the hands of ICBC
insured motorists (as a Crown Corporation ICBC is not a target of
the A.G. for repayment of costs) virtually every other situation
where a third party is liable for someone's injuries in B.C.
gives rise to an obligation on the wrongdoer to repay the province
money spent on health services. This is wind in the sails of the
From a political prospective the debate is naturally divisive.
The "abolitionists" accuse supporters of the status quo
of closed mindedness. The supporters of the status quo accuse the
abolitionists of recklessness.
Ultimately, the common ground is that safety must be a paramount
consideration. To me, the helmet law debate is a potential
distraction from many of the more pressing issues facing cyclists.
A full and comprehensive study of our infrastructure, and all of
the codified laws relating to cyclists, will go a lot further in
raising public awareness of the actual causes of accidents and the
prevention of accidents.
While the Charter challenge of the helmet law has garnered
significant media attention, it has an extremely remote chance of
getting any traction. The Charter guarantees fundamental rights and
freedoms. Driving a motor vehicle or riding a bicycle on a public
highway is not a liberty interest protected by the Charter. The
Charter also recognizes that governments must treat different
individuals and groups in different ways. The helmet law does not
discriminate as between cyclists based on personal characteristics.
It treats all cyclists equally under the law. Moreover, even if the
helmet law can be characterized as infringing, a most unlikely
outcome of the challenge, it would almost certainly be saved as a
"reasonable limit" within the meaning of the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
At the end of the day, Mr. Van der Eerden is attempting to
achieve a political remedy through the courts. It is not the role
of the judges in British Columbia to substitute judicial opinions
for legislative ones. The helmet law challenge, while thought
provoking, is poorly conceived, and the attention it has generated
is disproportionate to its legal merit.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Automobile drivers, like fine wine, tend to get better with age. Older drivers can draw on a wealth of experience from their years on the road to assist them when faced by a variety of dangerous conditions.
Under B.C.'s former and current Limitation Act, the limitation period for a Plaintiff's claim can be extended on the basis of a Defendant having acknowledged in writing some liability for the cause of action.
The insurance industry will be interested in Ledcor Construction Ltd v. Northbridge Indemnity Insurance Co because of principles the Supreme Court of Canada applied to the "faulty workmanship" exclusion in a Builders' Risk policy.
The recent Preliminary Issue decision in Walsh and Echelon (FSCO A15-007448, August 31, 2016) confirms that an economic loss does not need to be demonstrated in order to be entitled to attendant care benefits.
For the first time in BC, a Court has decided that an insured is entitled to special costs, rather than the lower tariff costs, solely because they were successful in a coverage action against their insurer.
Policyholders recently won a key victory at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ledcor Construction Ltd. v. Northbridge Indemnity Insurance Co. as the Supreme Court clarified the interpretation of a standard form...
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).