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Just about everyone who grew up in Michigan has some story about that time they went sledding. And all too many of them involve a near miss or a wipe out. But now cities across the country are considering banning the winter pass time as a way to prevent brain injury, and lawsuits.
In Dubuque, Iowa, for example, sledding will be restricted to only two of the city’s 50 parks. In the two sledding areas that will stay open, the city plans to post signs warning visitors about the risks, disclaiming all liability, and telling riders:
“NEVER, EVER ride head first on a sled.”
Other cities like Montville, New Jersey, and Lincoln, Nebraska, have simply outlawed the sport. In Paxton, Illinois, the city is going so far as to remove a hill from a city park, rather than take the risk of a sledding injury.
The risk of serious injury has led to some high-profile lawsuits that have other cities concerned. In Omaha, Nebraska, the city paid $2.4 million to a child whose sled hit a tree, leaving her paralyzed. In Boone, Iowa, a sledder hit a concrete cube. That person’s injuries cost the city $12 million.
The cities’ concerns are not unwarranted. Between 1997 and 2007, more than 229,000 children went to the emergency room after a sledding accident. The most vulnerable part of the body: the head – which puts sledders at the risk of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries. These injuries can have catastrophic affects on children, delaying their development and sometimes disabling them for life.
The ordinances described focus on sledding in city parks, but children are often far more creative, sledding in creek beds, and even on embankments along the side of the road. A collision between a sled and a motor vehicle could be fatal. Icy conditions could cause a sledder to shoot out into the street faster than a driver can react.
That’s why it is essential for parents to keep their children to safe sledding zones – free of trees, obstacles, and especially vehicles. It could mean the difference between a fun winter experience and a life-changing traumatic brain injury.
David Christensen is an expert in brain injury. He and his team at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan, specialize in helping the victims of auto accidents recover from insurance companies and at-fault drivers. They know the special needs that come with these serious injuries. If you or someone you know has been in a sled-on-car accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.