LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s rugby team says he’s making it a habit to wear his seatbelt on the team’s bus.
Other coaches and at least half of the players on his team at the southern Alberta school are also buckling up.
“We haven’t made it policy so we haven’t forced anybody,” said Neil Langevin, who took his second-ever selfie and posted it on Twitter to set an example. “We’re just raising awareness and making it a challenge on our team.”
Langevin said his decision was clear after speaking to his friend and the team’s manager Toby Boulet, who has made a point of wearing his seatbelt on the bus this season.
Boulet’s son, Logan, was one of 16 people who died after a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan. Thirteen others were injured.
“It really hit home,” said Langevin, who was Logan’s godfather.
The parents of two other players who died have also called for mandatory seatbelt use on buses since the crash in April.
A lawsuit filed by the parents of Adam Herold in July asked for a court order requiring all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan to be equipped with seatbelts.
Earlier this month, the mom of Stephen Wack wrote an opinion piece that ran in newspapers across the country asking for shoulder harness belts on all coach buses, along with the need for legislation making it compulsory to wear those seatbelts.
“If the wearing of shoulder belts on coach buses can be implemented successfully in the UK and some other European countries, then I believe that we, as Canadians, are capable of accomplishing the same,” Tricia Wack said in an email.
“With the Humboldt Broncos bus crash bringing this issue to the forefront, many Canadians are acknowledging the need for bus belts. Now is the time to make it happen.”
She concluded her opinion piece by asking people to buckle up for the Broncos and the hashtag #buckleupforthebroncos was born.
Officials with Hockey Canada, the national governing body for most ice hockey teams in the country, said they haven’t brought in any changes for this season.
“At this time, Hockey Canada’s membership has not put forward any recommendations or new regulations as a result of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy on April 6,” said spokeswoman Lisa Dornan in an emailed statement.
“We continue to monitor the information about the accident as it becomes publicly available in order to ensure we review any and all learnings that come from the incident.”
Transport Canada announced in June that the department will require all newly built highway buses to have seatbelts by September 2020.
Charter companies have said a lot of the newer buses already have seatbelts, but it’s tough for drivers to make sure people wear them for the duration of the trip.
Seatbelt use falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments, and is enforced by police in each area.
Many provinces and territories — including Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia — require motorists and passengers to wear seatbelts when they are provided.
Langevin said the legislation and policies help, but he said people can also make a choice to buckle up when they get on the team bus.
“We thought we’d tackle it in terms of habits,” he said.
Langevin said he doesn’t believe it will change the culture of being on the bus as a sports team.
“This won’t diminish the great times on the bus, but it will definitely make sure the bad times aren’t as bad.”