JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A recent sledding accident in Columbia, Missouri could prompt local officials to consider a ban on the wintertime activity, a step taken by an increasing number of U.S. cities and municipalities.
Emergency responders yesterday rushed 20-year-old Kathleen Oglesby to the hospital after she crashed while sledding with her younger sister Olivia in southwest Columbia, ABC 17 reports.
The woman had surgery for a back injury and was in serious condition Tuesday night, according to the news site.
The tragic event could prompt discussions by local officials over the safety of sledding, a conversation that has led more and more areas to ban the wintertime activity on public property.
Jefferson City Parks and Recreation director Bill Lockwood said sledding safety is often a topic broached after a serious injury, though city officials haven’t yet moved to ban sleds.
“Unfortunately, we can’t protect people from themselves all the time,” he said.
Parents who spoke with ABC 17 at Jefferson City’s McKay Park don’t like the idea of a sledding ban, and believe it’s a relatively safe experience for youngsters with proper supervision.
“I make sure they’re safe going down,” parent Loretta Wilhelm said. “I mean if they fall or something I make sure to check them. Otherwise, they’re out there having fun.”
Young sledders on the hill were also opposed to the idea.
“If they banned sledding here I mean it would be a huge disappointment to … us and all the other kids in the area,” Christia Knatcal said.
The sledding accident and subsequent discussion on safety comes about a month after the Associated Press reported on a trend of U.S. cities banning sledding over fear of injury-related litigation.
Most recently, Dubuque, Iowa banned sledding in 48 of the city’s 50 parks.
“Sledding is a time-honored tradition in cities that have hills, (but) sledding is a risky activity,” the Dubuque city manager wrote in a letter to the mayor and city council in December.
The AP reports several cities have faced very large lawsuits after accidents.
“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,” according to the news service.
“They pointed to judgments in sledding lawsuits in the past decade, such as a $2 million judgment 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.”
Other cities, meanwhile, have found a compromise between safety and liability.
“Some cities have opted for less drastic measures in the last several years rather than an all-out ban, including Des Moines, Iowa; Montville, New Jersey; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Columbia City, Indiana. By banning sledding on certain slopes or posting signs warning people to sled at their own risk, cities lessen their liability if someone is seriously hurt, but they’re still more vulnerable to lawsuits than if they had adopted an outright ban,” the AP reports.
According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at National Children’s Hospital, more than 20,000 children have went to the emergency room each year for sledding-related accidents between 1997 and 2007.