Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Like To Go Sledding In The Winter. Your Town Might Not Want You To

Sledding can be hazardous, but should we ban
the fun? Photo by Erik Holladay, Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot. 
Via Andrew Sullivan, I read the sad news that towns and cites  across the country are banning sledding, or as we call it here in Vermont, sliding, in municipal parks.

The issue seems to be liability. About 20,000 people are injured in sledding accidents yearly, and municipalities don't want to be sued and lose tons of money.

The bans are coming fast and furious. Dubuque, Iowa recently banned sledding in 48 of its 50 parks.

According to the Associated Press:

"In meetings leading up to the ban, Dubuque council members lamented the move but said it was the only responsible choice given liability concerns and demands from the city's insurance carrier.

They pointed to judgements in sledding lawsuits in the past decade, such as a $2 million judgement against Omaha, Nebraska after a 5-year old girl was paralyzed when she hit a tree and a $2.75 million payment when a man in Sioux City Iowa slid into a sign and injured his spinal cord."

Of course, people aren't giving up their sledding hills that easily, says the AP:

"In Omaha, the city banned sledding at a popular hill as a test one winter after losing the lawsuit, but decided to allow it again after most people ignored the restriction.

'It wasn't practical,' assistant city attorney Tom Mumgaard said 'People wouldn't abide by the ban." 

The city instead posted warning signs and put pads around posts and hay bales around trees, which seems to me like a more reasonable approach than banning sledding altogether.

Yes, sledding is dangerous, especially if you're being a bonehead, or drunk when you're sledding. Or, probably in the case of that poor girl in Omaha, had the terrible luck of having her sled veer off toward the tree.

I sympathize with the people who got so badly injured, I really do, but should we ban all potentially dangerous activity.

All kinds of other activities, like skating or skiing in the winter, or swimming, boating, or whatever in the summer, are sometimes dangerous, too.

Maybe we should ban people from crossing the street, since they might get hit by a bus. Maybe we should ban people from driving, since they might get into a crash.

We should ban people from doing anything. Even doing what I'm doing now, typing on a laptop at my desk. What if I reach over to the filing cabinet, fall over and hurt myself?

After all, maybe I'll sue the builder of my house for not designing a bedroom that is properly functional when some random homebuyer (me) decides to convert the bedroom into an office.

Maybe I'll sue the makers of my chair for not having a seat belt for holding me in place. Maybe I'll sue the makers of the file cabinet for not having drawers that extend out more. Maybe I'll sue the makers of my laptop, for not having a device that reaches out from the laptop and gets what I need for me from the file cabinet.

You can see how ridiculous this can become.

Yes, sledders should try to be careful, even maybe wear helmets. Cities should examine sledding hills and remove obvious hazards, or mitigate them.

But banning fun because somebody might get sued shouldn't be the American way. It is, but it shouldn't be.

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