Jeremy Hanke

Riding a Snowmobile Safely

January 06, 2010 01:15 PM
by James Sullivan
Early season snowmobile accidents have led to fatalities in states across the northern U.S. Use the Web to find advice and instruction for safe snowmobile operation this winter.

Knowing Basic Safety Practices Could Reduce Risk of Snowmobile Accident

Last week a New York woman was killed in Vermont after she lost control of her snowmobile and hit a tree. On Jan. 3, two Michigan men were killed when their snowmobiles collided head-on. And also on Sunday, one Massachusetts man was killed and his passenger seriously injured when they crashed into a tree while riding a snowmobile in New Hampshire.

Dozens of snowmobilers die each year in accidents. According to statistics compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the vast majority of fatal snowmobile accidents in the state involve men, and most result from collision with a fixed object, such as a tree. Alcohol plays a role in a handful of crashes, and excessive speed is often cited.

Though accidents are bound to happen, officials say many are preventable, and encourage riders to slow down, adjust their riding to fit the variables of terrain and weather, wear a proper helmet and maintain their vehicle, specifically head and tail lights.

The Michigan DNR requires that young riders take snowmobile safety certification courses. offers readers a list of all upcoming classes in the state.

Web Resources for Snowmobile Safety

One of the premier online resources for snowmobile safety information is the Safe Riders Snowmobile Safety Awareness Program. Produced by the International Association of Snowmobile Administrators in partnership with the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, the program is designed to facilitate the safe operation of snowmobiles through awareness of safe practices.

The site offers basic safety information on all aspects of snowmobiling. It addresses issues related to preparation, laws, riding safely, maintenance, emergencies and more. At the end of each section is a quiz visitors can use to test their knowledge.

The Wisconsin DNR urges riders to “Slow down, ride sober & ride for life.” It also says to avoid crossing bodies of water when possible, dress appropriately, stay on marked trails and never travel alone. Annual crash reports and fatality summaries are available in the sidebar on the left, along with other resources. Reading accident reports can be a sobering affair, but learning how others were killed or injured can be one of the most effective ways to learn how to avoid a similar fate yourself.

The state of South Dakota provides a more in-depth primer on snowmobile safety. Gear checklists, first aid information, a 12-step guide to safer snowmobiling and a rider ethics code are all valuable, freely accessible resources. 

Most states offer snowmobile safety courses similar to that provided by the Michigan DNR, and can be easily found via Web search.

Reference: First aid; wilderness survival

For additional information on emergency preparedness, consult findingDulcinea’s First Aid Web Guide. If you’re using your snowmobile to explore the outdoors, visit the findingDulcinea Wilderness Survival Web Guide for resources on surviving in the backcountry.

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