IDNR reminds snowmobile operators to stay safe - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

IDNR reminds snowmobile operators to stay safe

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SPRINGFIELD (WREX) -

With the recent snowfall, snowmobilers around Illinois are hitting the trails, however, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding them to do it safely.

Eleven reported snowmobile accidents occurred during the last season, including three fatalities. Just last Sunday, an Orangeville man died after colliding with a tree. According to the IDNR, many accidents can be prevented with proper precautions.

Being alert, knowing the trail, and traveling at a reasonable rate of speed for conditions is recommended to avoid most accidents. Also, you should never drink and operate a snowmobile. Over 50 percent of snowmobile fatalities in North America involve intoxicated operators. The following tips are also recommended:

  • Know your equipment and make sure it is in proper working order
  • Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling, including a full-size helmet, goggles, or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice chips, and flying debris
  • Avoid wearing long scarves because they could get caught in moving parts of the snowmobile
  • If the terrain you're going to ride is unfamiliar, ask someone who has traveled over it before. Be aware of trails or portions of trails that may be closed.
  • Drowning is one cause of snowmobile fatalities; when not familiar with the thickness of the ice or water currents, avoid these areas
  • Know the weather forecast and especially the ice and snow conditions in the area
  • Always use the buddy system; never ride alone or unaccompanied

"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," Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez says. "Most snowmobile accidents or fatalities we see could have absolutely been prevented had safety been practiced before and during the ride."

The IDNR encourages everyone to take a safety class before their first snowmobile ride, and state law requires those who are at least 12 and under 16 to have a valid Snowmobile Education Certificate of Competency that is issued by IDNR before they can operate a snowmobile alone.

Most instructor-led safety courses given by the IDNR have finished for the year, but two online safety courses offer legal safety certification. The classes are run by private companies and a fee is charged for the course. They can be found at either www.snowmobilecourse.com or www.snowmobile-ed.com.

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