April 12, 2011
New night speed limit law, volunteer instructors help trend hit six years
MADISON, Wis. - For the sixth consecutive year, Wisconsin ends its snowmobile season with fewer fatalities.
Department of Natural Resources Snowmobile Administrator Gary Eddy credits the trend to a new permanent speed limit law for night drivers, law enforcement efforts, outstanding snowmobile safety instructors and unpredictable temperatures.
Wisconsin recorded 17 snowmobile fatalities this season - down from 21 during the 2009-10 season.
"This was the first year for the permanent night time speed limit of 55 miles per hour," Eddy said. "That has been proven to be effective in the past, which is why it was made permanent."
Enacted in May 2010, the permanent speed limit for snowmobile operators is in effect from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. The speed limit had been a temporary regulation. The nighttime speed limit had been in place on a temporary basis since 2006.
"During past snowmobile seasons, many of the fatal accidents happened at night and were related to speed," Eddy said.
Since the 55 mph nighttime speed limit has been in place, Eddy said the state's snowmobile season fatality rate has steadily dropped in spite of good snow conditions. "It is a proven fact that speeds greater than 55 at night significantly reduce your ability to react in time to avoid collisions with fixed objects or make curves.
Law enforcement and educational efforts by wardens and local law enforcement agencies also aided in the reduction, Eddy said.
"The unsung hero during a safe snowmobile season are the hundreds of volunteer snowmobile safety instructors who host courses, and work hard to make sure operators and riders make safety part of their winter outings," Eddy said. State law requires all snowmobile operators born on or after Jan 1, 1985 to complete a snowmobile safety course."
The weather also played a role. "The season was up and down for a while with two mid-season warm-ups that took the trails down to nothing in most areas of the state," Eddy said. "Still, there were good riding opportunities for all to enjoy."
More than 220,000 snowmobiles are registered in Wisconsin where operators use 25,000 miles of groomed trails.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy, Warden/Snowmobile Administrator - (608) 267- 7455 or Joanne Haas, Office of Communications - (608) 267-0798