Helena Jaczek, the Member of Provincial Parliament for Oak Ridges-Markham, just north of Toronto, put forward Bill 117, an amendment to the province’s Highway Traffic Act that would add an age limit on motorcycle passengers.
Bill 117 states that “no person shall drive or operate a motorcycle on a highway if another person under the age of 14 years is a passenger on the motorcycle”. The bill was presented for its first reading on Oct. 27 and is slated for second reading and debate on Dec. 4.
Ontario law currently has no age limit in place, but the Highway Traffic Act does contain a provision stating that motorcycle passengers must be able to place both feet on passenger footrests while seated.
No other province in Canada has an age limit on motorcycle passengers. Only four American states have age limits in place, but none of them would be as restrictive as Bill 117: Arkansas prohibits passengers under eight, Hawaii prohibits passengers under seven, Washington and Louisiana prohibit passengers under five.
Jaczek, a doctor and former municipal chief medical officer of health, cited statistics that show 199 motorcycle passengers under the age of 15 were injured from 1995-2005 including 12 cases involving children under five.
Local motorcycle groups have started letter and email campaigns to Jaczek and to their own representatives in opposition to Bill 117.
Jaczek is a member of Ontario’s ruling Liberal Party, but she presented the amendment on her own as a private member’s bill. Historically, private member’s bills have a very low success rate of being enacted into law.