With another snowmobile season fast approaching, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging snowmobilers to get the season off to a smooth, safe start.
"I want people to take advantage of the snowmobiling opportunities that exist in Minnesota, so now is the time to prepare sleds and learn how to avoid the possible dangers that are present when snowmobiling," said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator.
Last season there were 13 snowmobile related fatalities and numerous injuries in Minnesota. Hammer believes all these incidents were preventable.
Hammer said riding snowmobiles can be a safe and enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when people follow some basic safety rules:
Obey the 50 mph speed limit in Minnesota, and remember that trail conditions often require slower speeds.
Slow down, especially at night; at nighttime speeds of 40 mph or greater, riders don't see a hazard in time to stop.
Stay away from alcohol, which is a major factor in most accidents.
Be cautious of hidden ditch dangers such as sign posts, fence posts, guy wires, stumps, rocks, telephone and cable boxes, culverts, and leftover construction materials; fresh snow and low light conditions make these hazards difficult to see.
Stay off the roadway, shoulder and inside slope of state and county highways.
Operate snowmobiles in the same direction as highway traffic when riding one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.
Stay on designated trails, demonstrating respect for landowners who provide most of the riding opportunities, and because traveling into the unknown has many risks.
Stay off the median of four-lane highways.
Come to a complete stop and look both ways before crossing any roadway,
and cross at a 90-degree angle.
Check weather conditions before heading out.
Remember that ice is never safe.
Never ride alone.
Display a current snowmobile registration.
Take a safety training course.
To legally ride a snowmobile, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, need a valid snowmobile safety certificate in their possession, or a snowmobile safety certificate indicator on their driver's license or on their Minnesota ID card.
For a copy of the DNR's 2011-2012 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, and for safety training information, contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.