Sledding enthusiasts encouraged to make safety a priority this year

With the onset of cold weather, the anticipation of snow and winter activities always excites the young and young at heart.

But as with any other action, there are precautions and hazards of which everyone should be aware.

Sledding is a case in point. In the right environment with the right equipment, it can be a very fun-filled winter release. But without the proper planning it can be a life-threatening adventure.

No matter what hill or slope a person may set out to conquer, a few guidelines will make the trip more enjoyable and much more safe.

First, children under the age of 15 should always have adult supervision when sledding. Helmets for children 12 and under should also be worn. Bicycle helmets can provide sufficient protection. Head and neck injuries are commonly reported in sledding mishaps; many might have been prevented with the use of a helmet.

Wearing a helmet is not always enough protection if the sledder is riding incorrectly. The suggested position is sitting up and facing forward. It is also beneficial to use a sled that can be steered. If you are heading for a tree or another person, the ability to steer may make all the difference on the severity of the situation.

Today a variety of snow vessels are available to chose from: traditional wooden sleds, toboggans, disks, and inflated or plastic tubes. Plastic sheets or thin material that can be easily punctured or ripped should never be used.

Although all of these will get someone down the hill, and some rather quickly, not all of them are easy to control. In fact, unless there is some sort of steering device on the sled-and hands and feet do not count-the sledder is going where the sled wants to go.

Finally, a sledder must always be aware of the hazards in the area. For example, look for items camouflaged or sticking out of the snow, such as pipes, poles, street signs, or tree branches.

Never sled where there is a risk of sliding onto a street or parking lot. Pick a spot that is clear of trees, shrubs, rocks, buildings and anything else that could hinder a smooth ride to the bottom.

Never sled at night where vision is impaired and obstacles are hidden. Walk down the slope if necessary to check for dangers before taking a more speedy tour of the area.

More specifically, if Marion Reservoir is your destination for sledding, please be aware of a few things:

Always use the parking lots for vehicles, not along the dam or roadways. Parking anywhere else can cause congestion and create hazards for sledders and other motorists.

Be aware that on either side of the road, there are many metal pipes and tubes at the bottom of the slope that may be hidden by the snow. Safety must be the highest priority.

Sledding has resulted in thousands of crippling injuries, not to mention accidents that have ended in death. These types of incidents can be prevented if children are supervised, the right equipment is worn and used, and most of all, people are responsible and use common sense.

The article was submitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office at Marion Reservoir.

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