15 Crucial Tips to Prevent a Sledding Accident
Remember what it was like to wake up on a snowy morning and find out that school was canceled? Snow days consisted of playing in the snow with friends, drinking hot chocolate, and of course, sledding. As a kid, sledding was awesome. (Ok, so it’s still pretty awesome as an adult too.) You felt like you were flying as you zoomed down the hill on your sled with the cold wind in your face. When you finally reached the bottom, you turned around and trekked back up, ready to do it again.
As a child, you didn’t really think about the dangers of sledding. But now, as an adult, you see stories in the news about children who were seriously injured or even killed in a sledding accident. While you don’t want to ruin the fun, part of you can’t help but worry when you take your own children sledding.
You have every right to be concerned for your child’s safety. A study published in Pediatrics found that from 1997 to 2007, U.S. emergency departments treated over 20,000 sledding injuries to children ages 19 and younger each year (2). Fortunately, you can take precautions to avoid sledding injuries. Check out the 15 safety tips below to prevent a sledding accident.
Sledding Safety Tips
1. Bundle up
Time to break out your best winter gear! The warmer you are, the longer you’ll be able to stay outside in the cold. Wearing layers of warm clothing will protect against frostbite. Thick winter clothing will also serve as padding in case of a collision.
It’s important to wear snow boots, gloves, a hat, and winter coat. If you wear a scarf, make sure it’s not too long. A dangling scarf could get caught in the sled and cause strangulation or a neck injury.
Wear waterproof clothing when possible. But, some clothing like knit gloves may easily become damp from the wet snow. Be sure to change any wet clothing immediately to help you stay warm.
2. Wear a helmet
Ok, so kids may not be happy about this. But a study found that the average speed at which sledders go downhill is 19 miles per hour (1). You could get badly injured if you crash into something going 19 mph while not wearing any protective gear. It’s better to wear a helmet for a few hours of sledding than suffer the consequences of a traumatic brain injury for the rest of your life. Wear a skiing or snowboarding helmet if you own one. If not, a bicycle helmet is better than nothing.
3. Check for obstacles
One of the best ways to prevent a sledding accident is to scan the area for objects like trees, rocks, and poles. If you see any obstacles or hazards, avoid sledding in that area. Some objects like tree stumps or rocks may be covered in snow, making it even more dangerous. You should never sled towards a snow bank as it could be a hidden hazard. You don’t want to sled into what looks like a fluffy pile of snow only to realize a large rock is buried underneath. Ouch!
4. Make sure the landing area is safe
You need to give yourself plenty of room to stop. Choose a hill with a large, flat, and clear landing area. Don’t sled on a hill that ends near a road, playground, pond, or fence.
Sledding on a hill that ends near a street or parking lot is dangerous. You risk getting hit by a car if your sled slides into the street. Collisions with cars can result in severe injuries or even death. Snow and ice reduce visibility and make roads slicker. Drivers will not be able to see you as clearly or stop as quickly. You may think a hill in your neighborhood is safe if it ends near a road that doesn’t have much traffic, but it isn’t worth the risk.
You also should never sled near a pond or other body of water. Even if the pond is frozen, you don’t know how thick the ice is. You risk hypothermia or drowning if you land in the water.
5. Avoid steep and/or icy hills
You’ll go faster on a steep or icy hill, but a higher speed means less control. You won’t be able to stop in time if you see a hazard. Also, hills covered in ice make for a hard landing if you fall.
6. Choose a sled that you can steer
Sleds with steering mechanisms are safer since they give you more control. Snow disks, tubes, and saucers may go faster, but you won’t be able to stop as easily. This makes these types of sleds more dangerous. In fact, snow tubes cause more traumatic brain injuries than any other type of sled (2). The fast speed combined with the lack of control is a recipe for disaster.
7. Use an actual sled
So what happens if you want to go sledding but you don’t own a sled? Whatever you do, do not sled on an object like a lunch tray, plastic sheet, or inner tube made for swimming. These items are harder to control because they are not designed for sledding. In addition, these items could be pierced by sharp objects on the ground since they are made of thinner and softer material. Buy an appropriate sled before the snowstorm hits or borrow one from a friend.
8. Observe the sled’s passenger limit
Don’t put more than one person on a sled designed for a single rider. Sleds have a passenger limit for a reason, and you put yourself at a greater risk for injury if you fail to follow this requirement. The only exception is adults who are riding with small children. Kids under the age of five should always ride with an adult.
9. Sled with your feet first
Sledding head first puts you at a greater risk for a head or brain injury. If you hit an object sitting head first, your head would get the brunt of the impact. Some kids may be tempted to make sledding more exciting by going head first, sitting backward, or lying on their stomach. But sledding in these positions is dangerous.
You’ll have more control if you sit facing forward with your feet first. This position allows you to scan for hazards as you’re going downhill. You’ll also be able to stop and steer more easily.
10. No tricks
It’s natural for kids and teens to want to do tricks on sleds. Children may see professional skiers or snowboarders jumping off ramps and then want to imitate them using a sled. But tricks on sleds can be hazardous. You could get seriously injured if you land the wrong way or fall off.
Parents should always supervise children while sledding. If someone gets hurt, an adult needs to be there to get help. Don’t let your kids sled in an unsafe or crowded area. You should also avoid hills packed with aggressive sledders. In addition, unsupervised kids and teens may be enticed to try risky stunts or tricks. Adult supervision helps everyone stay safer.
12. Sled during the daytime
Visibility is better during the day. You’ll be able to see hazards and obstacles more clearly. If you must sled in the evening or at night, do so in a well-lit area.
13. Never ride a sled that is being pulled by a vehicle
From 1997 to 2007, almost 6,000 children were injured on sleds being pulled by a vehicle (2). Riding a sled that is being pulled by a car, ATV, or snowmobile is dangerous. You have little control and the driver of the vehicle may not be aware of a problem since they are watching the road ahead of them.
14. Don’t walk up the hill in the path of sledders
You don’t want someone to crash into you. Move out of the way as soon as you reach the bottom of the hill. Walk back up the side of the hill instead of the middle, as the side will be less crowded. Keep an eye out as you walk and look up to see if anyone is sledding towards you.
15. Roll off of a sled that’s about to crash
Sometimes it’s hard to prevent a sledding accident. If you are about to collide with an object or sled into an unsafe area, roll off of the sled. You can always buy a new sled if it gets damaged. Your life is more important than a sled!
Sledding Accident Lawsuits
Some towns have banned sledding out of fear of liability. According to NJ.com, one New Jersey town put up “No Sleigh Riding” signs on a popular hill after settling a sledding injury lawsuit for $25,000. This isn’t the only sledding accident lawsuit that led to a ban. Philly.com says another New Jersey town settled a lawsuit for $150,000 after a boy broke his leg while sledding. The town’s insurance company then required the town to place signs prohibiting sleigh riding on the hill.
Similar lawsuits and sledding bans have been seen in other states as well. A lawsuit in Pennsylvania settled for an undisclosed amount after a girl was killed when her sled collided with a truck in the roadway at the bottom of the hill. The lawsuit led the landowners to put up “no trespassing” signs on the hill.
Sledding Injury Lawyers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
It is important for both sledders and property owners to do everything in their power to prevent a sledding accident from happening in the first place. But, sledding accidents do happen and determining liability in a sledding accident can be complex. If you’ve been injured in a sledding accident, a Philadelphia personal injury attorney at Kane & Silverman will evaluate your claim for free. Do not hesitate to contact us at 215-232-1000 or fill out our contact form online.
1 Cimpello, L. B., Garcia, M., Rueckmann, E., & Markevicz, C. (2009). Sledding: how fast can they go?. The Journal Of Trauma, 66(3 Suppl), S23-S26. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e318160f856
2 Howell, C., Nelson, N., & McKenzie, L. (2010). Pediatric and adolescent sledding-related injuries treated in US emergency departments in 1997-2007. Pediatrics, 126(3), 517-524 8p. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-1499