Sled Safety 101

Sledding and tobogganing are the perfect winter pastimes for many Canadians. It does not require much equipment, money or travel and has no age restrictions. It does however, require using common sense and practicing safety rules. Fortunately, most sledding injuries can be prevented and it is interesting that the majority of safety measures must be done before even getting on your toboggan or sled.

Before leaving home:

  • Inspect all the equipment: check for cracks, sharp edges and broken parts.
  • Choose a toboggan or sled that is sturdy and easy to control. Avoid saucers, carpets, inner tubes and makeshift options that can spin out of control.
  • Bring along helmets (ski or hockey helmets are recommended), especially for children.
  • Dress warmly and wear neck warmers (tube scarves) rather than dangling scarves that could potentially get caught and cause injury or strangulation.
  • Wear thick gloves and protective boots to protect against frostbite.
  • Wear sunscreen and bring along some water to drink.

When choosing a site:

  • Avoid icy hills that may lead to loss of control.
  • Choose spacious, gently sloping hills with plenty of room to level off and come to a safe stop.
  • Select a hill that does not cross traffic and is free of hazards such as holes and jumps, trees or stumps, fences, rocks, signs, telephone poles and parked cars.
  • Slide during daylight or on well-lit hills.
  • Do not slide on or around frozen lakes or ponds as the ice might be unstable.

When getting ready to go:

  • The proper position for sliding is to kneel or sit forward with your feet pointing downhill. (Sledding head first increases the risk of head injury.)
  • Do not overload a toboggan or sled; follow the recommendations.
  • Wait until the path is clear before proceeding.
  • Children five years and under should be accompanied by an adult.

Ready, set, SLIDE!

  • Maintain safe speeds and stay in control, ready to stop if need be.
  • When disembarking, don’t forget to stay out of the way of others and move quickly to the side of the hill.
  • If you have to get off quickly, roll to the side and do not use your hands or feet to try and stop the sled.

Children can reach speeds of up to 50 km/h. At such speeds, an unprotected fall or collision can cause serious injury or death. Most injuries occur by losing control, colliding with an object or being thrown from the toboggan or sled.

In a study conducted by the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program in 1996, a total of 806 sled-related injuries were documented. Only 5 reported wearing a helmet. Head and neck injuries accounted for one third of injuries for children less than 10 years of age. The importance of children wearing a proper and well-fitted helmet is paramount.

Following these safety tips can greatly reduce the chance of injury and your family will be able to enjoy a healthy, active winter sport. Have fun!