Should Sledding Be Banned? Maybe Not, and Here's Why
Bad news, everyone: Some cities in the U.S. are trying to ban sledding. But… why? Sledding is awesome! And not just when you’re a kid! What gives, government killjoys? Have you no sense of winter fun?
According to the Associated Press, the ban itself stems from one thing, and one thing only: Sledding is dangerous. Officials for the city of Dubuque, Iowa say that the practice poses a serious risk to public safety; indeed, a study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio found that more than 20,000 children received emergency room care for sledding-related injuries per year between 1997 and 2007. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that sledding involves hurtling down a steep, icy incline at high speeds perched atop little more than a plastic circle (or rectangle, depending on your sledding device of choice).
The big issue, though, isn’t the injuries themselves; it’s apparently the lawsuits that inevitably follow. The Dubuque City Council pointed to two recent cases to support the sledding ban: A $2 million judgment handed down in Omaha, Nebraska after a five-year-old girl was paralyzed as a result of hitting a tree, and a $2.75 million one in Sioux City, Iowa for a man who injured his spinal cord after hitting a sign. Instead of remaining at risk for large liability claims, said the AP, some cities have just flat-out closed all their sledding hills. Boom. Problem solved.
Or is it?
I hear the arguments against sledding — but I still think banning it entirely isn’t the answer. Pretty much everything can be construed as dangerous, and as Mic pointed out, riding a bike and jumping on a trampoline cause far more accidents each year than sledding does (275,000 and 82,000, respectively). AP noted that some cities have banned the practice only on certain hills, which seems like a fair compromise; it has the potential to take the more hazardous spots out of the running, but without the severity of a full ban. Besides, how exactly would you enforce a ban? Sure, you could fine the parents of kids caught sledding — but I don’t really think that’s going to help the matter. Kids don’t always have a solid grasp of repercussions that don’t apply directly to them.
When I was a kid, we had two options for sledding: One, the small hill in my backyard for instant gratification; and two, the gigantic (at least, to my seven-year-old eyes) series of hills by the public high school on days we felt like getting epic about it. And yeah, occasionally we fell off our Sno-Tubes or got nailed by a passing toboggan — but it was also an essential part of being a kid. I still remember the day I managed to maneuver my sled down all three of hills at the high school without stopping, and I’m still stupidly proud of it. Banning sledding would deprive generations of children of one of the best parts about winter. And for anyone who’s concerned that we’re coddling our kids too much these days… well, let’s just say that if full bans go into place, you’ve got more ammo for your argument.
Need more reasons why we shouldn’t ban sledding? Try these ones on for size:
1. We all need a little danger in our lives.
It’s why we enjoy going on roller coasters and walking through haunted houses.
2. Kids need to take risks and make mistakes.
Heck, adults need to take risks and make mistakes, too. If we spent our entire lives not trying new things purely because the possibility exists that something might go a tiny bit wrong, we’d never do anything at all. How dull, and potentially damaging, re: refusing to broaden your own horizons. Better to risk something and learn from it than never to do anything new at all.
3. It’s inspiring.
Sledding can act as a wonderful gateway to loads of other winter sports. I can’t help but think that banning it might result in huge numbers of would-be professional athletes never discovering their passion for skiing or snowboarding or whatever.
4. Sledding safety can be a learning opportunity.
Worried about your kids hurting themselves while sledding? Teach them how to do it safely (including never, ever to sled directly into the road). It won’t stop every single possible injury from happening, but showing them how important it is to be aware of your surroundings, to know your limits, and so on will serve them well throughout their entire lives.
5. It’s fun.