Heads up! Helmet safety

Helmets can go a long way toward protecting your child. But how much do you know about choosing the right one?

True or false? All children’s helmets sold in Canada must meet prescribed safety standards.

False. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has not yet developed standards for skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding helmets. So how do parents know if the helmet they’re buying for these sports is safe? The best we can do is piggyback on regulations established by US agencies; look for a product that meets Snell or ASTM standards.

Hockey helmets are required by federal law to be approved by the CSA. Cycling helmets must meet provincial standards, but some of the laws are out of date. Safe Kids Canada, the national injury pre-vention program of The Hospital for Sick Children, recommends that bike helmets should be approved by the CSA or the CPSC, a US organization with comparable standards.

True or false? It’s safe to use a bike helmet for skateboarding.

False. There are two basic types of helmets. Single-impact helmets, such as those approved for cycling, protect the wearer during one hard crash, after which they must be replaced. Multiple-impact helmets, such as those used for hockey, offer protection in several falls and collisions.

Skateboarders should wear a multiple-impact helmet designed specifically for their sport. These helmets include more coverage of the back of the head. Look for a Snell or ASTM sticker.

True or false? The law says all Canadian kids have to wear helmets when cycling.

False. Bike helmets are mandatory for children in BC, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI. The other provinces and territories have no cycling helmet legislation.

Bike helmets reduce the risk of a serious brain injury by as much as 88 percent. And we know that laws work: A recent national study showed that children who live in provinces with helmet legislation are 25 percent less likely to suffer a head injury from cycling. The study suggested that consistent laws would prevent about 170 head injuries in children every year.

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