Tips for driving safely this snowmobile season
As Minnesota's snowmobile season begins, conservation officers from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) remind snowmobile operators to drive safely and to drive smart.
"They need to contain their enthusiasm for that first ride and get this season off to a smooth, safe start," said Lt. Leland Owens, DNR recreational vehicle coordinator. "Drivers should also be aware of potential hazards and use good judgment."
To legally ride a snowmobile in Minnesota, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, need a valid snowmobile safety certificate. There are two ways to do this. First, the traditional classroom course taught in local communities by volunteers is available for anyone 11 or older. Second, a DNR adult or youth Snowmobile Safety CD-ROM for PC or MAC is available for those 16 or older. "People can learn from the comfort of home, fill out the exam, and send in results to be officially certified. It's as easy as that," Owens said.
The CD-ROM course for those 16 and older is available from the DNR Information Center by calling 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 and by e-mail at .
I n addition to safety training requirements, snowmobilers should follow these DNR safety tips:
DON'T DRINK - Drinking and driving can be fatal. 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.
SLOW DOWN - Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should travel at a pace that allows ample reaction time. When driving at night, a speed of 40 miles an hour or higher often results in "overdriving" headlight illumination.
BE PREPARED - Bring a first aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches and a compass.
STAY ALERT - Fatigue can reduce a driver's coordination and judgment.
ICE ADVICE - Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness and strength. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Never travel in single file when crossing bodies of water.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS - Use a full-size 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.
WATCH THE WEATHER - Rapid weather changes can produce dangerous conditions.
BRING A BUDDY - Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in some personal injury, which is particularly dangerous if alone. If traveling alone, tell someone about the destination, planned route and expected time of return.
REPORT ACCIDENTS - The operator of a snowmobile 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 killed or is unable to file a report due to incapacitation, any peace officer investigating the accident can file the accident report within 10 business days.