Recent snowfall will likely bring out more Minnesota snowmobilers and that means there’s an increased chance of an accident, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
There were six snowmobile-related deaths in Minnesota during the 2012 snowmobile season. That compares to 13 fatalities in 2011 and 19 fatalities in 2010.
The usual causes of snowmobile accidents are operator inexperience, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and high speeds.
“Snowmobiles can travel as fast, or faster, than an automobile, and require every bit as much or more experience to operate,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator.
The speed limit for all snowmobile trails and public lands and waters is 50 miles per hour.
Hammer noted that today’s sleds can easily do 70, if not 100, miles per hour. Unfortunately, they don’t stop like a vehicle or offer the same protection.
“Speed kills and that is a fact with snowmobiles,” said Hammer.
Going too fast can also cause snowmobile drivers to “overdrive” their snowmobile’s headlight. Even at 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than the headlight shines. Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp finally illuminated the hole in the ice.