COLUMN: Self-preservation genes do the trick

NANAIMO: We’re getting a little carried away with legislation intended to protect us from ourselves.

We’re getting a little carried away with legislation intended to protect us from ourselves.

I’m talking about these silly helmet laws and other bubble wrap rules restricting us from activities we should be free to enjoy.

Poking around my garage the other day I realized I have a helmet for almost every activity I pursue.

I have a motorcycle helmet, ski helmet, bicycle helmet, and, until recently, a climbing helmet I used once to spelunk around the Horne Lake Caves.

I get the motorcycle helmet. Whenever you are being propelled, pulled, or pushed by a motorized vehicle, a helmet is usually a good idea.

But that makes me wonder. Why don’t boaters need helmets? How many deaths are attributed to people whacking their heads and drowning?

Maybe we should be legislated to wear helmets in activities like tennis and golf. Ever been hit in the head by a golf ball?

We should almost certainly have one on when in the shower. You know how slippery that wet shower floor is?

And don’t get me started about the Perseids meteor shower. We should all be wearing industry standard beanie protectors from mid-July to mid-August, just in case someone gets clooned in the melon by galactic detritus.

And good for the Canadian Paediatric Society for wanting to ban youth under the age of 16 from riding all-terrain vehicles.

They should lobby to ban those other dangerous activities like playgrounds, mountain biking, swimming, croquet, hoola hoops, fishing, pillow fights and dodgeball (if it isn’t already). And why ATVs and not dirt bikes?

And hurray for that Toronto school for banning soccer balls in the playground after a teacher took one in the head. Hopefully next they’ll hinge the teeter-totters.

Seems kinda ridiculous doesn’t it?

The bubble wrap mentality has to end.

We’re humans. We do stuff and get hurt.

Do I wish you and your child safe passage? Absolutely. But until we can ban accidents, passing legislation like helmet laws for bicycles or banning schoolyard balls is futile. Our self-preservation genes will have to suffice.

With respect to banning kids under 16 from riding ATVs, what kind of mixed message are we sending our kids, with report after report saying today’s kids are fat and lazy and distanced from nature, while pretty much banning any activity a kid wants to do because there’s a chance they might get hurt doing it?

Kids get hurt in almost all situations, controlled or otherwise. Helmet or no helmet.

And sometimes they don’t, such as the case of Dutch teenager Laura Dekker who, at 16, travelled more than 27,000 nautical miles on her own sailing around the world. Her parents were strongly criticized.

How will we ever know the potential of our children if we don’t let them do anything?

Now, Dekker’s case is extraordinary, and certainly the exception. Most parents don’t have that kind of risk tolerance. But society is erring on the side of ultra-cautious.

If uncertain, we should err on the side of fewer laws. Legislation should only be considered if it protects the masses, not individuals.

But I just don’t see the evidence that supports banning kids riding ATVs outright, or forcing people to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. If kids want to ride ATVs and their parents are cool with it and are willing to accept the responsibility of seeing it’s done safely, they should be allowed.

And helmets?

We’ve reached a population of 7 billion largely without them. I only wear mine because I don’t want the news report to say “he wasn’t wearing a helmet”.

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