Drive safely with snowmobilesThe first snowfalls of the year are often the most dangerous time for snowmobilers since many trails have not been groomed and ice conditions are very hazardous.
The first snowfalls of the year are often the most dangerous time for snowmobilers since many trails have not been groomed and ice conditions are very hazardous.
“Snowmobile operators need to contain their enthusiasm for that first ride and get this season off to a smooth, safe start,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR’s education program coordinator. “They should drive safely and drive smart when operating a snowmobile. Drivers should also be aware of potential hazards and use good judgment. Taking a Snowmobile Safety Course will reduce your chances of getting into trouble.”
Any resident born after Dec. 31, 1976, who operates a snowmobile in Minnesota, must possess a snowmobile certificate and may attend either a youth or adult training course. Volunteer instructors who have been certified by the DNR Division of Enforcement offer classes throughout the state.
In addition to training requirements, snowmobilers should follow these safety tips:
- Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and slow reaction time. Snowmobilers who have been drinking may drive too fast or race across unsafe ice. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia.
- Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that will allow ample reaction time for any situation. When driving at night, a speed of only 40 miles an hour may result in “overdriving” the headlight.
- Stay to the right side of the trail, especially on curves.
- When traveling, be prepared for the unexpected by making sure to bring a first-aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches, a compass and cell phone.
- Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Never travel in a single file when crossing bodies of water.
- Wear a helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice, and flying debris. Clothing should be worn in layers and should be just snug enough so that no loose ends catch in the machine.
- Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in some personal injury. The most dangerous situations can occur if a person is injured and alone.
- Snowmobile operators who are involved in an accident resulting in medical attention, hospitalization, death, or damage exceeding $500 must file a written report with the DNR. If the operator is unable to file a report, any peace officer investigating the accident can do so within 10 business days.