Opinion

News Views: Long and short

A 12-year-old boy was seriously injured while longboarding near his home in east Maple Ridge on Saturday.

According to police, he was riding down a steep hill, lying on his stomach, and rammed head-first into the side of a moving car.

He was wearing a helmet.

The boy is the fifth longboarder in Metro Vancouver in as many weeks to be seriously injured in such a collision.

Last week, three longboarders were injured in two separate collisions in West Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast. A week earlier, another longboarder in West Vancouver narrowly missed serious injured after he landed under a SUV. Another longboarder was lucky to escape catastrophe Tuesday in Victoria after catapulting over the hood of a car.

All this has neighbours and safety advocates calling for better traffic controls or new rules banning longboards on our streets.

Last year the District of North Vancouver joined  White Rock, West Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver in banning longboarders on some streets, because they go too fast down hills with, essentially, no breaks. Now North Van district may ban longboarding on all streets.

Will that stop riders? Can such bylaws be effectively enforced? Will they reduce injuries, prevent deaths?

To outlaw this increasingly popular recreational activity would be a knee-jerk reaction, as is blaming parents for the recent collisions. The latter can’t be standing on every street corner, hovering over their young. Kids need room to grow. Sometimes they make errors in judgement.

By the way, the longboarders injured in West Vancouver were 21 and 23 years old.

However, parents must teach their kids safety, just as they would for rollerblading, riding a bike or a standard skate board – stay to the right, obey traffic signs and signals. If you can, teach them how to fall properly. Teach them how to break, slalom or slide. Show them where it is safe to ride, or to employ spotters, to communicate with one another.

We doubt the District of Maple Ridge is going to designate a hill solely for longboarders, stacked with hay bails at the base, anytime soon. In the meantime, let the latest incidents serve as a lesson in awareness.

We need not ban longboarding any more than shopping cart races. But we need to be aware of our surroundings and potential dangers – such as moving vehicles, and cruising down hills at high speeds with no brakes –  and take precautions (don’t buy a board).

Be smart, be safe.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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