Sledding Is Fun But Dangers Are Often Overlooked

By Brian Presley

For many of us, tobogganing or sledding, is a great childhood memory.  Once you were able to make it up to the top of the hill, you were ready to fly.  The 10 – 20 seconds of pure speed were well worth the 10-minute march uphill and you didn’t always need a real toboggan or sled.

Some kids had a Crazy Carpet (a sheet of plastic) or a Flying Disc (a round piece of plastic) while some would fly down on a large piece of cardboard.  Others would use a type of snow bicycle that had small sleds for wheels but would never really work and usually bent after the second crash.

It was and is a great combination of fun, exercise and affordability.   Unfortunately, it can also be deadly.

Years ago, when my kids were much younger, my wife and I would take them to a hill at a local park.  They would start at the top and about halfway down it would start to curve about ninety degrees and go straight down towards a baseball field.  It was a great slide for the little kids.  An adult could easily walk up the hill in no time and it wasn’t very fast, but we tried to add a sense of danger to it by calling it “Dead Man’s Curve.”  Just to be safe however, one parent was at the top while the other was at the bottom of the run.

A few years later when Dead Man’s Curve was no longer a challenge, we decided to bring them to a much larger hill.  This was a very large hill dedicated to sledding and it was always busy.  It was so popular that the city installed lights for people to slide in the evenings.

It was a little intimidating for the kids (and us) but we agreed to take them as long as they wore their skating helmets.  They complained at first but if they wanted to slide, they had to wear them.  They were also told that once the ride was over, they were to immediately go to the side of the hill to start their long walk up.  Never go up the middle when sliders are coming down.

Every time we went, I noticed that the majority of kids didn’t wear a helmet which didn’t make sense since these parents would drive their kids to the hill in a vehicle made of metal and have them sit in a specially designed seat that held the kids in securely with a number of straps to keep them safe.  Once they arrive at the hill however, they had no problem sending their kids flying down with a piece of plastic or inner tube with no control and with nothing to protect them should they hit one of a dozen other kids doing the same thing and all at 15 – 30 miles per hour!

Thousands of kids are injured every year and some fatally.  Many of these injuries could be minimized or avoided with the use of a helmet.  Kids wear them when they go biking, skating and skiing so why not sledding?  Everyone should wear one but especially those 14 years of age and under.

If the kids don’t like the idea, have them decorate them.  They can also wear their winter hat over them.  If they’re young and still don’t want to wear a helmet, keep them at home and show them online videos of kids getting hurt sledding.  There are a lot of them.  Tell them it’s better to look different than dead.

You should never assume (and you know what happens when you assume…) a hill is safe for sledding as well.  Check it out yourself, just to make sure.  Some hills may end quickly with a lot of trees, rocks, a fence or even a road.  If they do, don’t use it even if everyone else is.