MINNESOTA, USA — There's some fresh powder dumping all over the region Friday and with it, comes some fresh warnings on how to keep yourself safe while snowmobiling this holiday weekend.
From Jan. 15 to the 23, Snowmobile Safety Awareness Week is in full throttle, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is getting out ahead of it to plead with families to stay safe when heading out on snowmobiles.
According to the DNR, two people were killed in snowmobile accidents in 2022 alone, and many more were close calls. The DNR said an average of seven riders have died while riding snowmobiles every year for the last eight years.
According to DNR conservation officer Jacob Swedberg, one of the most common contributors to crashes involve drinking alcohol.
Drinking and operating a snowmobile can result in the same discipline as a DWI. In the state of Minnesota, you must maintain a BAC 0.08 or less.
Officer Swedberg, who is based in Detroit Lakes, said he's noticed an increasing number of snowmobiles registered in Minnesota along with drivers from North and South Dakota looking for some trails through the trees.
He said with all the high traffic, a lot of inexperienced riders are the ones getting in accidents.
"Riders just have to be aware of where they are going, especially if they've never been on the trail before," Swedsberg said. "Definitely carry a map or something like that, that will allow them to be a little more prepared should something happen or should they get lost."
Swedsberg said another factor leading to crashes is speed and ice thickness on lakes.
"Be aware of the weather; not all lakes freeze the same. Sometimes there might be rivers flowing into and out of the lake where there might end up being a little thinner ice," Swedsberg said. "As long as you're going a reasonable speed, you can avoid a lot of situations."
Officer Swedsberg said most modern snowmobiles can drive faster than 100 miles per hour.
Know before you go:
The DNR is listing some tips to follow if you want to head out to the snow this weekend.
- Stay on marked trials. Some trails may not be groomed, and obstacles may be hiding on ungroomed trails. Check the trail conditions before you go.
- Leave the booze at home. Riding under the influence is a main factor in accidents. Around 60 percent of which are fatal.
- Watch the speed. Going too fast is another main factor.
- Be careful on the ice. There must be at least five to seven inches of new, clear ice to support the weight of you and your snowmobile.
- Take a snowmobile safety course. It is a requirement to take a safety course if you were born after 1976.
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