Last week, Will Wilkinson called the “flinching risk-aversion” of sledding bans “profoundly embarrassing.” But, even if one prioritizes safety, Melinda Wenner Moyer believes such bans are wrongheaded:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that approximately 10,000 sledding-related injuries in children under the age of 14 were treated in hospital emergency departments in 2012. That’s a lot. But by comparison, consider that trampolines caused nearly 79,000 ER-worthy injuries in kids under 14 in 2012, and television sets caused 26,000. (That doesn’t include the permanent hearing loss kids got from watching Dora the Explorer.)
Sledding becomes much less dangerous when it’s done a certain way, too—and that’s precisely why these park sledding bans are a problem:
Open spaces such as parks are among the safest places for kids to sled. One study found that the odds of going to the ER for sledding injuries were five times higher in children who had been sledding on the street compared with in the park. Injuries sustained while street sledding are often much worse, too, and are more likely to involve traumatic brain injuries. But where are kids without big backyards going to sled if they can’t do it in the park? The street, of course.
On that note, a reader writes:
I laughed when I read your post, because I had just read the following passage in the January 3, 2015 edition of the Cook County News Herald (Minnesota, not Illinois). It is from their weekly column, “Down Memory Lane,” and was first published 90 years ago, January 8, 1925:
The children of Grand Marais are requested to slide on Monroe Street where there are not so many cars nor so much danger of accidents. The automobile drivers are also asked to avoid Monroe Street with their cars as much as possible and help make sliding safe there for the children.
Another snapshot from the in-tray:
The reader from Dubuque wrote, “Who takes their kids sledding anymore? What kids venture out of their homes to sled on their own?” Well, here in Normal, Illinois, a few hours’ drive from Dubuque, Iowa, the answer to the first question is, “A lot of people.” When it snows thickly enough, parents, children, and teens on their own go to the top of the main sledding hill in town, Jersey Hill, and sled down. If it doesn’t melt within a few days (always a possibility here), it gets packed down by repeated sledding from hundreds of people, many of whom spend hours on the hill. That just makes it faster and, of course, more more appealing.
As for safety issues, the crest of the hill is in a sort of L-shape, and at the bottom is a creek that parallels the crest in a similar L-shape. The potential for going into the creek is high on the bottom of the L – from top to creek is not even 100 yards, but a lot lower along the main hill, because the creek is farther away – over 100 yards, maybe 200, plus there is a berm before the creek. Parents and children prefer the long hill; teens prefer the shorter one – it’s faster, and one has to bail out before going into the creek – or onto it, because it usually freezes over in January.
I have yet to hear of one lawsuit or one death, but I think I do remember hearing about a major injury. But we still like to sled here!