An outright ban on toboganning – is that where we are headed?

by DaniGirl on January 6, 2015 · 2 comments

in Mothering without a licence

Remember waaaaay back in 2007 when we had a great conversation about a proposed helmet law for toboggans? Here’s the next iteration of the bubble-wrap-your-kids movement: apparently some cities are banning tobogganing altogether.

Front yard sledding-2

According to this article in the National Post, a ban on everyone’s favourite winter pastime is going viral across US cities. “Dubuque, Iowa, is set to ban toboggans in nearly all its 50 parks. Other cities, including Des Moines, Iowa; Montville, New Jersey; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Columbia City, Indiana, are following suit by restricting certain runs or posting signs warning people away.”

This is, of course, a liability issue, so it’s no surprise that our more litigious southern neighbours are more trigger-happy to ban tobogganing than we might be (although apparently some Canadian cities like Hamilton have implemented similar bans.) I would not argue that tobogganing can be a dangerous activity – I ended up in the ER and on crutches for a week or so myself in Grade 9 after trying to surf down a hill standing up on a sled and severely spraining my ankle when I jumped off to avoid a tree, and I was probably six when the sharp edge of a toboggan split open the skin on my nose when I collided with a kid pulling his sled up the hill I was sliding down.

But I would still in no way support a blanket ban like this. I very much agree with the expert doctor cited in the article. Dr Charles Tator, a brain surgeon who works with an injury-prevention charity, acknowledges that tobogganing can be as risky as diving, snowmobiling or parachuting. However, the article says Dr. Tator does thinks rather than banning sledding, cities could take steps to make sledding safer by removing obstacles like trees from designated sledding hills. He also encourages kids to wear helmets.

Winter activities seem more fraught with peril than summer ones. While biking and skateboarding and tree climbing have their own risks, injuries seem both more likely and more severe from activities like skiing (ask me how many times I wiped out on my first runs down the green run last year), skating and tobogganing. Anything that involves hurling yourself across a slick surface is just a little bit crazy, right? But so is living in a climate where we live with ice and snow for so much of the year. On days like this, even going for a walk down an icy sidewalk in -40C windchill is fraught with peril, but we’re not going to ban that, are we? (Ahem, except in the schools, where apparently outdoor recess gets cancelled if the temperature falls to -20C with the windchill. But I digress … that is a post for another day.)

What do you think? Is banning tobogganing the answer? Is the onus on the sledder or the owner of the hill to take precautions and minimize risk? Or should we just hop on a sled and get over ourselves?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 smothermother January 7, 2015 at 8:55 am

This sort of stuff makes me sad. When a city starts to bulldoze hills because they are afraid of potential lawsuits it shows us where were have come as a society. And it’s not a good place. Where is the sense of responsibility for the safety of your own person or your children? Why place that responsibility on everyone else? I don’t want to lament on days gone by and how we were raised with almost careless abandon by our parents, but I also think we should look back on what our childhood was and why we wouldn’t want our kids to have to have the same fun and adventure we did. *sigh*

2 Sarah McCormack January 7, 2015 at 8:57 am

this is a great post Dani, and a topic I have pondered often. really, I have!!

On one hand, I am so frustrated by the “bubble wrapping” of our kids.. risk is a natural part of life and they must learn to manage it sensibly. parents need to decide what risk seems reasonable for themselves. On the other hand, I think it is ironic that we put our kids in car seats until they are 8 to protect them, but then put then on a piece of plastic (often w/o a helmet) and push them down an icy hill at high speeds.

I know a woman who’s 9 yr old son was killed toboganning. he hit a tree, and died instantly. this is hard to ignore, but we still go .. when my boys were young we made them wear helmets.. as they get older, this is not so cool, so we try to pick hills that are safe.. no trees, less kids.

which brings me to the BIG ISSUE for me!! I have said this before but I think as parents we need to have a meeting and AGREE that at the toboganning hill, the kids MUST walk UP the hill on a certain side… not through the middle. I have seen so may accidents caused by kids (and their parents) walking through the area other kids are sledding down! this is a huge pet peeve of mine! so, can you organize something, Dani.. a town meeting perhaps so we can all agree to this!!!! it would minimize accidents for sure, and my blood pressure as well!

I could go on.. really, but I will stop. thanks for the opportunity to do a very Canadian vent 🙂

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