Monday, Jan. 12


Snowmobile Safety Week Jan. 11-17

Snowmobile operators reminded to
put safety first this winter
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[JAN. 12, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- As Illinois faces winter cold this year, Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold is reminding snowmobile operators to focus on safety when conditions allow for snowmobiling this season.

"When the snow begins to fly, snowmobiling very quickly becomes a popular wintertime activity in Illinois, and we want snowmobilers to keep safety in mind," Brunsvold said. "Know the rules of operation, do not drink and ride, have the proper attitude and respect for others and the environment, and help promote safe and enjoyable snowmobiling."

International Snowmobile Safety Week this year is Jan. 11-17.

During the 2002-2003 winter season, there were 24 snowmobile accidents, resulting in 20 injuries and four fatalities in Illinois. That compares with 44 accidents resulting in 41 injuries and three fatalities during the 2001-2002 season and 77 accidents resulting in 69 injuries and eight fatalities during the 2000-2001 snowmobile season. Alcohol use, operating at excessive speed and poor visibility are factors often cited in snowmobile accidents.

"Most snowmobile accidents are avoidable if sled operators stay on marked trails and stay away from unfamiliar ground, especially at night," said Jeff Hopkins, head of the IDNR Safety Education Section.

The majority of accidents occur as the result of collisions with fixed objects, such as trees, fences, stumps, rocks, logs and other objects hidden or obscured by the snow.

Among the basics of snowmobile safety and ethics:

  • Make sure the snowmobile is in top mechanical condition.
  • Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling.
  • Use a full-size helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injury from branches and twigs, stones, ice, and other debris.
  • Know the terrain before beginning the ride.
  • Know the weather forecast and ice and snow conditions in the area.
  • Always use a "buddy system." Never ride alone or unaccompanied.
  • Do not harass or pursue wildlife
  • Avoid areas posted for wildlife and natural area protection.

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  • Be sure the snowmobile is equipped with a properly operating lighting system.
  • Avoid bodies of water if unsure of the thickness of the ice or water currents.
  • Respect the property and rights of landowners.
  • Obey all federal, state and local rules regulating operation of snowmobiles.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with snowmobile clubs and other groups, offers free snowmobile safety education courses. The courses are required of young people ages 12-16 who want to operate a snowmobile alone. Children ages 10 and 11 may operate a snowmobile only if they are accompanied on the sled by an adult. Children under the age of 10 are prohibited from operating a snowmobile, even if under the direct supervision of an adult.

In addition to a comprehensive review of snowmobile laws, the courses offer safety tips, instruction on handling a snowmobile in different snow conditions, emergency first aid, clothing and equipment needed for cold weather survival, responsibility to the environment and wildlife, and sled maintenance and repair.

For information on safety education classes, contact the IDNR Safety Education Section by calling toll-free 1 (800) 832-2599.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has registered more than 48,000 snowmobiles in the state, maintains 400 miles of public trails open to snowmobiling at state parks. In addition, more than 2,000 miles of additional trails for public use are made available by local snowmobile clubs throughout Illinois.

For more information on snowmobiling opportunities, safety education and the snowmobiling code of ethics, visit the IDNR snowmobile Web page at

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources
news release]

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