Towns Ban Sledding In A Collective Effort To Kill Childhood

blue sledWinter is the worse. Sure, it’s pretty when it snows and everything is white and glittery, but as soon as you stop oohhing and ahhing you realize that you have to figure out how to survive a snow day or  a day with your toddler without the ability to drive anywhere. Enter sledding. Not only does putting on all those layers help eat up the hours until bedtime, sledding is a fun way for your family to get fresh air and physical activity. It’s a wholesome good time, unless you live in one of several towns that have banned sledding over safety concerns.

The TODAY show spoke with  Kevin Lynch of the Dubuque, Iowa City Council where sledding was banned just this month. Lynch said “Nobody wants to be a killjoy that says, ‘Don’t go sledding and have fun in the wintertime’…’But the fact is, we live in a society where anyone can file a lawsuit.”

The TODAY show reports that over 20,000 children visit the emergency room each year with sledding related injuries. For some families, these injuries result in a lawsuit against the town, and the payouts can be substantial. According to TODAY, Omaha, Nebraska, paid $2 million, and Sioux City, Iowa, $2.7 million for sledding injuries.

I am a card carrying member of the anxious mom club. I cut my two-year-olds’ food into itty bitty pieces and drive my babysitter nuts with text messages “just checking in.” But even I think banning sledding is going too far. If we never let our kids do anything fun because there was a risk of getting hurt, they’d never do anything period. Might as well turn those snow suits into bubble suits for maximum protection ad be done with it.

Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council, watched TODAY  correspondent Jeff Rossen take a test run on a sled (this guy has the best job ever). Hersman is obviously on team Fun, because instead of decrying the activity as deadly, she offered some safety tips, such as going down feet first to better control steering, wearing a helmet and avoiding dangling scarfs that pose a strangulation hazard because they could get caught in the sled. She also suggested never sledding alone.

The most important sledding safety tip, according to Hersman, is to chose the right location for sledding. She told the TODAY show: “Not too steep and no obstructions at the bottom,” she advised. “No trees, no fences and no cross traffic.”

I’ll admit that in all my years of sledding as a child, I never wore a helmet. No one did. But we also didn’t wear bicycle helmets and now I wouldn’t dream of letting my kids on a bike without one, and 22 states have even have laws that require bicycle helmets for various ages. So I can roll with the times on that one.

I understand a town’s concern in avoiding injuries and lawsuits. But sledding is one of the few things you can do in winter that is fun, free (cardboard + trash bag = sled when I was a kid) and spans generations. If we can all be more responsible for taking safety precautions before heading down a hill, there’s no reason to ban the practice altogether. So to all the officials who want to ruin one of the only good things about winter I say– Here– borrow my toboggan, then let’s see how you feel.

(image:  Bartosz Nitkiewicz/


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