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DNR offers tips for safer snowmobiling

With another snowmobile season upon us, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging snowmobilers to get this season off to a smooth and safe start.

DNR officials say riding snowmobiles can be an enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when following the rules of the road and trail:

• take a safety training course; to legally ride a snowmobile, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976 need a valid snowmobile safety certificate

• maximum speed in Minnesota is 50 mph; many times trail conditions or riding at night require slower speeds

• stay away from alcohol; it's a major factor in most accidents

• be cautious of hidden dangers, especially when operating in a road right-of-way; this includes silt fences, soil stockpiles, pieces of unused concrete culverts, wooden survey stakes and steel right of way markers may remain during the winter months after construction activity ceases; watch for sedimentation ponds, brush piles and scattered rocks and boulders that may be obscured by fallen snow

• slow down, especially at night, over-riding your headlight is another major cause of accidents

• display current snowmobile registration

• stay off the roadway, shoulder, and slope of state and county highways

• operate your snowmobile in the same direction as highway traffic when riding one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise

• stay off the median of four-lane highways

• come to a complete stop and look both ways before crossing a public roadway

• cross public roadways at a 90-degree angle

• check local ordinances on when and where you may ride

• stay on marked trails; the future of our trail system depends on it

• a person under the age of 14, without a snowmobile safety certificate, may operate a snowmobile when supervised or accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or other person 18 years of age or older designated by the parent or guardian

• remember, ice is never safe

• never ride alone

• make sure your machine is in proper operating condition

• join a snowmobile club.

For a copy of DNR's 2008-2009 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, call 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).