12 Dec Snowmobiles: let’s be cautious
If snowmobiling is a winter activity really appreciated, it remains that it presents some danger. Each year, many people are seriously injured while snowmobiling, head injuries being the leading cause of serious injury or death. The reasons may be various, but speed is often involved.
What you need to know:
- The snowmobile can hit a tree, another snowmobile or other motorized vehicle.
- A passenger can fall from the snowmobile, or the snowmobile rolls over them.
- The snowmobile can break through the ice or come across open water.
- Loading or unloading a snowmobile can be dangerous.
- Riding conditions can be unsafe (such as bad weather).
Even if we probably think that it is easy, to safely drive a snowmobile requires that you be strong, skilled and mature. For this reason, operating a snowmobile is not recommended for children and teens under 16 years of age.
Head injuries are more common in passengers than in drivers because it takes strength and stamina to hold on tight for a long period of time, especially when the snowmobile is running over bumpy ground at a high speed.
BEFORE YOU GO OUT
- Check the weather forecast.
- Check the condition of the trails. Do not snowmobile on ice if you’re not sure how thick it is or what condition it’s in.
- Be careful when fueling your snowmobile to avoid burns and explosions.
- Take care when loading snowmobiles on and off trailers to prevent strains and crush injuries.
- Learn the signs of hypothermia (when body temperature drops to dangerously low levels) and frostbite and what to do if this happens.
HAVING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT IS IMPORTANT
- Wear well-insulated protective clothing (goggles, waterproof snowmobile suits, gloves, rubber-bottomed boots, helmets that meet Canadian standards).
- Snowmobiles should have brightly coloured antenna flags mounted on rods that are 1.2 m to 2.4 m long, located on the back of the machine. This is especially important if you’re driving in a hilly area, so that others can see you.
- Carry a first-aid kit, an emergency tool kit (with spark plugs, and drive and fan belts), an extra key, and a survival kit that includes flares.
- Carry a phone if you’re in an area with service or get a satellite phone for greater coverage.
- No one younger than 16 years old should drive your snowmobile and no child younger than 6 years old to ride as passengers. Do not carry more than one passenger.
- Don’t pull people on saucers, tubes, tires, sleds or skis behind a snowmobile. If you must tow someone, the safest way is to use a sled or cutter attached to the snowmobile by a rigid bar connection. Travel at a slow speed over level terrain, away from trees, rocks and other vehicles. A spotter should always watch when someone is being towed.
- Beginners should stick to groomed trails and drive during the day.
- Always travel at safe speeds. Many trails have posted speed limits.
- Be extra careful on unfamiliar or rugged terrain where you might run into hazards you can’t see, such as barbed wire.
- Always keep headlights and tail lights on so that you can see, and so that others can see you.
- Travel in groups of 2 or more, and only on marked trails away from roads, waterways, railroads and pedestrian traffic.
- Never drink alcohol or use prescription or non-prescription drugs (including marijuana) that make you drowsy or alter your judgment before or while operating a snowmobile.