Keeping yourself and others safe in snowmobile season

It can never be too early, but it can surely be too late. Snowfall can happen in November around the east-central waters, but we usually wait for December for a good snow cover. When a major snowstorm comes in October, even responsible snowmobilers sometimes get a little carried away.

Thinking about snowmobile safety not only makes you and your loved ones safer, everybody else in the area is more likely to get home safe too. Besides, knowing your responsibilities also another way of knowing your rights. When you expect more of yourself, you can expect more of the snowmobilers around you.

Alcohol is usually a factor in snowmobile crashes

Reading the snowmobile fatality reports from the Wisconsin DNR, you can almost guess the agency’s top snowmobile safety tips.

Of the 19 snowmobile fatalities in 2018, alcohol was clearly not involved in only one. In four others, the DNR lists the alcohol results as “pending,” leaving the other 14 fatalities clearly involving alcohol. Of those, four list a blood alcohol content over twice the legal limit for driving and snowmobiling.

Slowing down means small instead of big mistakes

At high speed, stopping distance on snow, especially under the influence of alcohol, grows too long to prevent many crashes. Going too fast routinely leads to snowmobilers striking trees, shorelines and gates and especially missing turns and colliding with trees.

But the long stopping distance also leads snowmobiles to hit people and other vehicles. When multiple snowmobiles travel in a line, often everyone but the first in line has flying snow reducing visibility. If somebody falls off a snowmobile, any vehicle behind them must stop before hitting them. That takes everyone, followers and leader alike traveling at a very smart speed for conditions.

Inexperience and negligence

The DNR both offers and requires a snowmobile safety certification course to drive a snowmobile on public snowmobile areas and trails. It also recommends all snowmobilers complete a safety course no matter where they drive.

Operating a well-maintained vehicle according to the rules helps keep you and others safe. It might also put you in a much better legal position in case you ever follow an crash into the court system.