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If you live where it snows in the winter then chances are you’ve either ridden on a snowmobile or given it serious thought.  Snowmobiles are fun and exciting and beyond that, they can be an excellent way to get to wherever you want to go, especially if you need to get someplace without paved or plowed roads. One of the problems with snowmobiles is the lack of regulations with regard to the requirements for licensing and training.  Each state sets its own snowmobile regulations and in many states almost anyone of any age can ride a snowmobile with little or no training or experience in the operation of such machinery.  The International Snowmobile Manufacturer’s Association (ISMA) is involved in several ongoing efforts to encourage uniform regulations and training for all snowmobile riders.  Each year approximately 110 people nationwide die in snowmobile related accidents.

Causes of Snowmobile Accidents

Excess speed is the primary cause of snowmobile accidents. Alcohol use is often linked to snowmobile accidents involving excess speed. The use of alcohol impairs judgment and can lead to hypothermia during very cold weather.  Night driving also contributes to snowmobile accidents. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the majority of snowmobile accidents occur between the hours of 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. Many snowmobile accidents occur when a driver takes his or her machine onto a frozen lake and the weight of the snowmobile and the rider breaks through the ice and the driver drowns.
In general, younger drivers take greater risks when driving snowmobiles than do older drivers and many snowmobile accidents  involve teenagers and even younger riders.  Many young riders suffer severe head and neck injuries when their snowmobile strikes a stationary object, such as a tree or rock.

What Can be Done to Reduce Snowmobile Accidents?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 16 not be allowed to drive snowmobiles at all.  They also recommend that all drivers and passengers be required to wear helmets, much as motorcycle riders are required to wear helmets.
In addition, the following general safety precautions are recommended for all snowmobile riders:
  • Make sure that your snowmobile is adequately maintained.
  • Always wear appropriate clothing and protective gear including helmets, wind visors, gloves and boots.  Wear layers of clothing to keep warm.
  • Keep your speed under control. Know what your limits are and what the limits of your machine are and stay within those parameters.
  • Plan your route and let someone else know your route and your planned time of arrival.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs.
  • Never ride alone; ride with a buddy.
  • Stay on marked trails and be especially alert when crossing roads.
  • Do not ride on lakes.
  • Keep a first aid kit with your snowmobile.

What to Do in Case of a Snowmobile Accident

The reason it is important to always ride with a buddy is because most snowmobile accidents result in injury to the driver or the passenger.  Without another person available to lend assistance, even a minor snowmobile accident in extremely cold weather can turn into a serious, even a deadly problem. Make a shelter for the injured party, even if it’s only a built-up snow bank to block the wind, and stop bleeding with pressure and bandages.  Keep your cool – and then go for help.  

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