Snowmobiling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months, but just as with guns, there are some very important safety concepts to keep in mind. The first is that snowmobiles are motor vehicles, and driving one under the influence is just as dangerous (if not more) than doing so in a car. It's also every bit as illegal as DUI in a car. Don't drive impaired--and that includes prescription medication--and never ride with someone who is driving impaired.
Also just as with cars, excessive speed is a major factor in many accidents, especially at night. To help avoid accidents, keep your nighttime speed under 40 MPH. Forty miles an hour may not seem all that fast, but remember, you're riding on terrain, not a groomed road.
Never ride alone: Always ride with a friend on another snowmobile. This way if one machine is disabled, you have another to get help. If you must ride alone, let a friend or loved one know where you are going, and when you expect to be back.
Always wear a quality DOT helmet and facemask. Wear layers of clothing to keep warm and dry. Snowmobile suits, bibs, jackets, gloves and mittens should cut the wind, repel water and keep you ventilated. If your helmet doesn't incorporate a mask, please wear shooting-quality eye protection. (At 40 MPH, one little twig could cost you your eyesight.)
Don't ride in adverse weather conditions. Yes, the snowmobile is designed for snow, but it can't help you see in whiteout conditions, and it's not any better on ice than your SUV. Plan your trip and check the trails you'll be riding prior to departure.
Speaking of those trails, please stay on them. Trespassing is a major complaint about snowmobilers and can result in trail closure. Always stay on designated snowmobile trails. Venturing off trails can result in accidents. Only ride private property when you have landowner permission.
Take a snowmobile safety training course! You can find them for free online, and many state departments of natural resources offer them for free or for a nominal fee.
“It’s important to remember that operating any type of motor vehicle, including snowmobiles, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can cause traumatic injuries, tragic loss of life, and is flat-out against the law,” said Captain Matt Bruner with the Iowa DNR’s Law Enforcement Bureau. “We recommend snowmobile riders of all ages take a snowmobile safety course, don’t outride your abilities or trail conditions, and perhaps most importantly, don’t drink and ride.”