MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are teaming up to promote a safe snowmobile season and educate Wisconsinites on the dangers of operating a snowmobile while impaired by alcohol and/or other drugs.
More than 200,000 registered snowmobiles hit Wisconsin's 25,000 miles of groomed trails each winter, making safety an essential part of the ride. In the early months of 2023, there were 16 fatal snowmobile crashes, with 10 involving alcohol.
“Snowmobile-impaired crashes affect families the same way as road vehicle impaired crashes,” said Erin Payton, MADD Regional Executive Director. “Unfortunately, snowmobile drivers do not always have the same mindset in operating their sleds sober.”
“It’s important to remember that operating any type of vehicle while under the influence can cause traumatic injuries and tragic loss of life,” said Lt. Jacob Holsclaw, DNR Off-Highway Vehicle Administrator. “In addition, we are seeing the highest age demographic in fatal crashes being over the age of 40. We recommend snowmobile riders of all ages to take a snowmobile safety course, don’t outride their abilities, and perhaps most importantly, don’t drink and ride.”
The DNR and MADD want to share these safety tips to make snowmobiling a great experience with all recreation explorers:
- Don't drive impaired: Alcohol and drugs impair a driver's vision, balance, coordination and reaction time. Don't ride with people who drink and ride!
- Take a snowmobile safety training course: Classes on basic snowmobile operation, laws, regulations and safety can help save lives and reduce injuries.
- Stay on the trail or stay home: Stay on the trail unless otherwise designated. Know the laws and regulations governing snowmobiling where you ride and where you travel to ride.
- Watch the weather and check trail and ice conditions before riding: Don’t ride in unsafe weather conditions. Plan your trip and check the trails you’ll be riding before departure.
- Never ride alone: Always ride with another snowmobile. If one machine is disabled, you have another to get help.
- Dress for safety and survival: Always wear a DOT-approved 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.
- Slow down: Excessive speed is a factor in many accidents, especially at night. To help avoid accidents, keep your nighttime speed under 40 MPH.
- Stay to the right: Almost every trail is a two-way trail. Stay to the far right of the trail, especially on hills and corners. Obey all trail signs and cross roadways with extreme caution.
Be extra careful when riding on ice-covered lakes and rivers: Avoid riding on lakes and rivers when possible, and wear a life jacket over your outer clothing if you must ride on ice. Stay off ice with moving water near or under it – no ice is 100% safe, but ice in these areas may be thin and weak.