Tuesday, January 23, 2007


A helmet law for toboggans?

Normally, I tend to favour the legislation of safety. I'm all for car seat laws, and bicycle helmet laws, and non-smoking laws, and seat-belt laws. I think the state has as much of a role to play in these areas as the individual.

On this issue, I'm not so sure. Today in the Citizen, there was an article about sledding safety and it examined the question of whether there should be a law requiring kids to wear a helmet when tobogganing.

Never mind the law part, I got stuck on the question of whether one should wear a helmet when sledding. I have to admit, paranoid as I am about the boys' safety, putting a helmet on them to go tobogganing would have never occured to me. Not that it's a bad idea. Lord knows I did enough damage to myself as a child on snowy hills.

When I was six or seven, I caught the sharp edge of a plastic toboggan across the bridge of my nose when I couldn't get out of the way fast enough one day while trying to walk back up a slippery hill. I clearly remember the look on my poor mother's face as she opened the back door to let me in and took one look at me, wailing and with blood streaming down my face. Another time, back in the days before snowboarding I did enough damage to my ankle trying to 'surf' down a hill on a toboggan that I started the second semester of grade nine on crutches. In fact, I hurt myself when I (wisely, in retrospect) bailed off the sled as it headed at great speed directly toward a tree.

Neither one of those injuries would have been prevented by a helmet. If I'd hit that tree, a helmet might have been a good thing, mind you. I can see no harm whatsoever in suggesting kids wear helmets when tobogganing.

But to legislatively require it? That is, pardon the pun, a slippery slope. (Confession: as soon as I starting noodling this post, I knew I had to work that pun in somewhere!) Legislating something implies we have the desire, let alone the capability, to enforce it. Would there be tickets for helmetless sledders? Would helmets be required every time a child is on a sled? Sure, it makes sense on the big hills like the ones the NCC maintains at Bruce Pit and Conroy Pit (another aside - I love the Canadian-ness of city-maintained sled hills!) but what about the gentle slope in the park across the street? Would helmets be required there? Would a helmet required when I trade our wagon for a sled to negotiate snow-covered sidewalks?

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, do you put the helmet over or under the toque?

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