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Drive safely this snowmobile season

Follow safety restrictions when snowmobiling this winter.

The recent snowfall over much of the state is a reminder that another snowmobile season is upon us. The first snowfall of the year is often one of the most dangerous time for snowmobilers since many trails have not been groomed and ice conditions are very hazardous.

"Snowmobile operators need to contain their enthusiasm for that first ride and get this season off to a smooth, safe start," said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR's education program coordinator. "They should drive safely and drive smart when operating a snowmobile. Drivers should also be aware of potential hazards and use good judgment. Taking a Snowmobile Safety Course will reduce your chances of getting into trouble."

In addition to training requirements, snowmobilers should follow these safety tips:

Don't Drink

Drinking and driving can be fatal. Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and sow reaction time. Snowmobilers who have been drinking may drive too fast or race across unsafe ice. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

Slow Down, Stay Right

Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that will allow ample reaction time for any situation. Remember, when driving at night a speed of only 40 miles an hour may result in "overdriving" the headlight. Stay to the right side of the trail, especially on curves.

Be Prepared

When traveling, be prepared for the unexpected by making sure to bring a first aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches, a compass and cell phone.

Stay Alert

Fatigue can reduce the driver's coordination and judgment.

Weather, Ice Advice

Rapid weather changes can produce dangerous conditions.

Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Never travel in a single file when crossing bodies of water.

Dress For Success

Wear a helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice, and flying debris. Clothing should be worn in layers and should be just snug enough so that no loose ends catch in the machine.

Bring A Buddy

Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in some personal injury. The most dangerous situations can occur if a person is injured and alone. If you must travel alone tell someone your destination, planned route, and when you will return.

Report Accidents

Snowmobile operators who are involved in an accident resulting in medical attention, hospitalization, death, or damage exceeding $500 must file a written report with the DNR. If the operator is unable to file a report, any peace officer investigating the accident can do so within 10 business days.

Snowmobile Safety Training

Waiting to sign up for a snowmobile safety class may mean sitting out the snowmobile season, according to officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

To legally ride a snowmobile in Minnesota, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, need a valid snowmobile safety certificate.

Plenty of training classes are available right now and may be taken in a classroom or through a CD ROM delivered program.

Classroom courses are taught in your local community by volunteers and are available for anyone 11 or older. Find a list of classes on the DNR Web site at

The DNR Adult or Youth Snowmobile Safety CD ROM for PC and MAC is available for those 16 or older. Snowmobilers can learn from the comfort of home, fill out the quizzes and exam, and send their results in to be officially certified. It's as easy as that. To obtain a copy of the CD, contact the DNR by phone at 888-MINNDNR (646-6367), 651-296-6157 or send an e-mail to

For a copy of DNR's 2009-2010 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, call 888-MINNDNR (greater Minnesota) or 651-296-6157. It is also available on the DNR's Web page at