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9 Tips to Snowmobile Safely

Published in Emergency Services, For the Health of It Author: Jason McDonald, Injury Prevention Specialist, CentraCare Trauma Services

When we get snow, unfortunately we also get injured snowmobilers in our emergency rooms. Most of these injuries could be prevented if snowmobile drivers followed common sense safety tips.

By law, Minnesota requires snowmobile certification for anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976. Even if you were born after 1976, a snowmobile safety course is recommended. Did you know that you have to be at least 14 years old to drive a snowmobile across a state or county road? That is just one of the many regulations you’ll learn during a snowmobile safety training course. Besides learning the regulations, the course discusses the most common causes for snowmobile accidents and how to avoid becoming an accident statistic. Learn more about snowmobile safety training.

Follow these basic principles for snowmobiling:

  1. Check the weather forecast and trail conditions. Don’t ride in adverse weather conditions. Check trail conditions and trail maps for where you plan to ride.
  2. Don’t drink alcohol and ride. Alcohol is a factor in more than 60 percent of all fatal accidents in Minnesota. Alcohol and drugs effect your vision, balance, coordination and reaction time.
  3. Never ride alone. If you ride with a friend on another snowmobile, you won’t be stranded if there is a problem with your machine.
  4. Dress for safety and survival. Minnesota requires that all snowmobile drivers wear helmets approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Wear layers of clothing to keep warm and dry including a facemask, snowmobile suit or bibs and a jacket, gloves or mittens.
  5. Watch your speed. Speed is a major factor in many accidents — especially at night. To help avoid accidents, keep your nighttime speed under 40 MPH.
  6. Keep to the right. Almost every trail is a two-way, so stay to the far right — especially on hills and corners. Obey all trail signs and cross roadways with extreme caution.
  7. Stay on the trail. To avoid accidents, stay on designated snowmobile trails. Half of Minnesota’s trails go across private property and trespassing can result in trail closures. Only ride on private property if you have the landowner’s permission.
  8. Avoid riding on lakes and rivers. If you must ride on ice, wear a life jacket over your outer clothing and stay on the marked trail. Stay off of ice that has moving water near or under it — ice in these areas may be thin and weak.
  9. Be on alert. Scan your entire field of vision often to identify potential hazards. Expect the unexpected — an animal jumps out from the woods or the snowmobiler driving toward you doesn’t stay to the right.

See Minnesota snowmobile regulations.