BY SAM VAN CAMP
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding snowmobile operators and riders to take extra caution this year when snow falls in Illinois. Every year throughout the state, people are seriously injured or lose their lives on snowmobiles.
Many of these accidents could have been prevented had reasonable and proper precautions been taken.
In most instances, being alert, knowing the trail, and traveling at a reasonable rate of speed for trail conditions can prevent most accidents. In North America, more than 50 percent of snowmobile fatalities involve intoxicated operators.
Last season in Illinois, 11 reported snowmobile accidents resulted in three fatalities. There were seven fatalities in Illinois in 2007-2008.
“It doesn’t matter what your intentions are before you set out to ride. If you aren’t prepared and using common sense, accidents can happen,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. “Most snowmobile accidents or fatalities we see could have absolutely been prevented had safety been practiced before and during the ride.”
While the IDNR encourages everyone to take a snowmobile safety class before their first ride of the season, state law requires that persons at least 12 years of age and less than 16 years must have in possession a valid Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate of Competency issued by IDNR in order to operate a snowmobile alone.
While most of the traditional instructor led safety courses administered by the IDNR have taken place this year, snowmobilers can also satisfy state safety requirements by taking one of two online courses to become familiar with safe sledding practices or to refresh themselves on staying safe.
Individuals can earn legal safety certification through either www.snowmobilecourse.com or www.snowmobile-ed.com.
Both courses are administered by private companies and do charge a fee to take the course.
A minimum of four inches of snow cover must be present for snowmobile use on state-managed property.
Please call ahead to site offices to get the latest snow conditions and trail closures at individual sites.
Ignoring these closures can result in a minimum $75 fine and possible arrest. For a list of site offices, please visit the IDNR website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/
Sam Van Camp writes about the outdoors on Fridays and Sundays. Call him at 662-6559. Fax: 446-6648. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org