When fun is against the law

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The city of Toronto is in the news for outlawing sled and toboggan riding on 45 of its hillsides.

According to the Toronto Star, the ban has sparked a robust debate about how far government should go to protect people from themselves while they’re having fun.

To be sure, tragic accidents do happen when frolicking kids and adults hit the sled slopes.

In a case a few years back, a 5-year-old girl in Nebraska hit a tree while sledding and became paralyzed.

In another case, in Iowa, a man suffered a spinal cord injury after slamming into a sign.

The first case resulted in a $2 million judgment and the second in a $2.75 million judgment against municipal governments.

Few sledding accidents are that serious, thank God.

But Newsweek cites statistics that show that every year they send more than 20,000 kids to the hospital — 9 percent of whom suffered a brain injury.

I hit the sled slopes dozens of times every winter as a kid, but I was careful.

I avoided toboggans, for instance, because I had so little control over those things — a concern that may have saved my life the day six of my daredevil friends rode a wooden toboggan down a steep hill on a golf course.

They had to be going better than 30 miles per hour when they hit a three-foot-wide culvert at the bottom of the hill.

It was magnificent to see them flailing their arms and legs as they sailed through the air and also very funny — until each of them landed with a gigantic thud.

Their boots, gloves and scarves were scattered all over the snow. Nobody broke any bones, but they moaned the whole way home.

Being an individualist, I was always a Flexible Flyer sled guy because it offered me superior control as I lay on my belly and whipped around trees and other obstacles.

However, my friend Wes Walters wasn’t so skilled. While speeding downhill on his belly, he tried to navigate between two large trees and broke both elbows.

It’s easy to find fault with government busybodies, lawyers and nannies who eagerly ban sled riding and other recreational activities, such as skateboarding, to protect people from hurting themselves.

I understand why towns and municipalities might ban an activity that may cost them a sizable damage settlement.

At the same time, though, I lament the litigiousness and overprotectiveness that has become the hallmark of modern times — and decry governments that don’t know when to stop butting into our private lives to tell us how to behave.

Did you know, for example, that the federal government has created “helpful tips” on how to survive winter weather?

“Stay off roads if at all possible,” our government warns us. “If trapped in your car, then stay inside.”

That’s sound advice for winter, I guess.

They forgot to remind us to wear our wool mittens and earmuffs.

But I’m still grateful my tax dollars are paying some bureaucrat to determine that it’s best that we stay inside a car that we are already trapped in.

In any event, the real problem with life is that living is risky — and having fun can be especially risky.

Take what precautions you can, but remember: Life goes by too fast, so avoid government bureaucrats and do something fun as often as you can.

But never get on a toboggan.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected].