Drive safely this snowmobile season

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

As another snowmobile season gets underway, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages snowmobilers to get this season off to a smooth, safe start.

Snowmobile trails in Minnesota opened Dec. 1.

Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

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In a snowmobile safety course students learn about the machine, the laws, safe operation, ethics of the sport and how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.

DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor in a local community or by CD.

To obtain the snowmobile safety training CD, or for general information, call 888-646-6367, 651-296-6157, or 800-366-8917, or email at

Over 1,000 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state. For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR website or call 800-366-8917.

Snowmobilers should follow these safety tips:

Don’t drink: Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and slow reaction time. Snowmobilers who have been drinking tend to make poor decisions that can lead to injury or death. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

Slow down: Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that will allow ample reaction time for any situation. Remember, when driving at night at speeds of 40 miles per hour and above you’ll easily “over drive” your headlight and won’t be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

Be prepared: When traveling, tell someone the destination and return time. Bring a map, a first aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches/lighter, compass and cellphone.

Stay alert: Fatigue can reduce the driver’s coordination and judgment. Changing trail conditions are potential hazards to stay alert for to avoid injuries or death.

Ice advice: Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Always remember that ice is never safe.

Dress appropriately: Use a full-size helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice and flying debris. Clothing should be worn in layers and should be just snug enough so that no loose ends catch in the machine.

Watch the weather: Rapid weather changes can produce dangerous conditions.

Bring a buddy: Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in some personal injury. The most dangerous situations can occur if a person is injured and alone.

Report accidents: The operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident resulting in medical attention, hospitalization, death, or damage exceeding $500 must file a written report with the DNR. Accident reports must be submitted within 10 business days of the accident. If the operator is killed or is unable to file a report due to incapacitation, any peace officer investigating the accident can file the accident report. Report forms are available from local law enforcement agencies or on the DNR website at