January 14, 2014
MADISON - Wisconsin Snowmobile Administrator Warden Gary Eddy today urged all snowmobilers to mark the upcoming International Snowmobile Safety Week in two ways: ride with a safety mindset and take a friend snowmobiling.
"As we have another snowstorm moving through Wisconsin this week, wardens anticipate snowmobilers will be anxious to get back out on the many fun trails this state is known for," Eddy says. "In order to keep snowmobiling the fun and enjoyable experience it is for families and friends, it's important to remember to operate safely at all times."
This is the purpose of the International Snowmobile Safety Week, started in 1995 by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and supported by the Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens. This year's safety awareness week is January 18 - 26. The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association's themes include "Safe Riders: You make Snowmobiling Safe' and 'Take a Friend Snowmobiling."
"Now is a great opportunity to pledge to yourself, family and riding companions that you will take steps to be a safer rider," Eddy says. "And if you know of someone who has never experienced snowmobiling, consider introducing that person to the fun on the trails."
Easy-to-remember safety tips include slowing your speed. "It's easier to see Wisconsin's great scenery that way," Eddy says. "We have 25,000 miles of groomed trails thanks to volunteers and others who support this sport. These trails are found statewide."
Another tip is to hold off on any adult alcoholic beverages until the snowmobile is parked for good that day. Put on the helmet is another solid safety measure, along with taking a snowmobile safety course.
Speed, alcohol and night-operation are the three main factors behind the seven fatalities of the first weeks of the 2013-14 snowmobile season. Preliminary information shows three of the seven fatalities involved alcohol, six involved speed and three occurred at night.
"As with every winter, there are temperature changes and storms - and these affect snowmobile conditions," Eddy said. "The recent warm-up recently caused some counties to close their trails. As a result, some riders head to private properties, road ditches or frozen waterways, exposing riders to even more hazards due to lack of snow cover, potential thin ice and overall icy conditions."
It's always a good idea to check your county's trail status. Travel Wisconsin maintains an online map detailing the status of county snowmobile trails. www.travelwisconsin.com/snowreport/ (exit DNR).
Wisconsin law also requires snowmobile riders who are at least age 12 and born after Jan 1, 1985, to complete a snowmobile safety course. That means people that are 29 years old as of Jan. 1, 2014 are required to complete a snowmobile safety course prior to operating. This law has been in effect since 1999. Riders age 16 and older may take a Wisconsin internet snowmobile safety course. Information regarding all snowmobile safety courses can be found on the DNR's snowmobile web page.
"Snowmobiling safety classes can be a family event or something you can do with your friends," Eddy says. "Parents are encouraged to take the course with their children to reinforce what has been taught and to make it a fun family experience."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy, 608-245-2315 and Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement public affairs manager, 608-209-8147