In the continuing effort to bring attention to safe snowmobiling in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Jan.18-25, Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Awareness Week, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR, the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MnUSA) and its member clubs support this effort, which is designed to encourage safe snowmobiling and to raise awareness of the importance of having the proper snowmobile training.

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To legally ride a snowmobile in Minnesota, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976 need a valid snowmobile safety certificate.

Here are some suggestions for making a safe snowmobiling experience:

ZERO ALCOHOL – Drinking and driving can be fatal. Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and slow reaction time. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

SLOW DOWN – Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that allows ample reaction time for any situation. Remember, when driving at night the DNR recommends a speed of only 40 miles an hour. Faster speeds may result in “over driving” the headlight.

BE PREPARED – When traveling, make sure to bring a first aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches and a compass.

STAY ALERT – Fatigue can reduce the driver’s coordination and judgment.

ICE ADVICE – 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.

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. The most dangerous situations can occur if a person is injured and alone. When traveling alone tell someone the destination, planned route and scheduled return time.

REPORT ACCIDENTS – The operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident resulting in medical attention, death, or damage exceeding $500 must file an official accident report through the county sheriff’s office within 10 days.

For a copy of the DNR’s 2013-2014 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, call 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 or find it online.

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