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Jan. 13 to 19 is Snowmobile Safety Week and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) kicked off the campaign with important messages about what it takes to enjoy a safe snowmobile season in Ontario.
Members of the OPP Highway Safety Division and other OPP members were joined by OFSC, S.T.O.P. (Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol) and S.A.V.E. (Snowmobile ATV and Vessel Enforcement) unit members to share information about the dangers and risks associated with snowmobiling – especially when alcohol and riding on lakes and rivers are involved.
As part of the campaign kick-off, an Ontario resident recounted her personal and tragic ordeal of losing her son to an impaired snowmobiler in Central Ontario. Her story sent a strong message that snowmobiling while impaired places other snowmobilers at risk and that these tragedies are completely preventable.
According to the OPP, seven of the 13 snowmobiling fatalities investigated by the OPP last season (2011-12) involved alcohol and they have already investigated two snowmobiling incidents this year (2013) in which alcohol and unsafe ice were factors.
The OPP and OFSC remind snowmobilers that these statistics underscore the importance of making smart choices, like riding sober, avoiding lakes and rivers and using OFSC prescribed trails. According to the OPP and OFSC, more than 90 percent of fatalities occur off OFSC designated trails.
With the current warm weather through much of the province this week, the OPP and OFSC are strongly urging snowmobilers to avoid lakes and rivers altogether, as waterways with previously formed ice deteriorate rapidly.
Important Tips for Safe Snowmobiling:
• Ride without alcohol or drugs: The OPP and OFSC remind snowmobile enthusiasts that snowmobiling under the influence of any amount of alcohol or drugs carries severe penalties. If convicted of driving a snowmobile while impaired, a rider could lose all driving privileges (car, truck, motorcycle, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles) and jeopardize future insurability. The same “warn range” suspensions issued for having a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) between 0.05 and 0.08 mg. that apply to driving a motor vehicle also apply to driving a snowmobile.
• Stay on the trail: The OFSC makes designated trails available that are marked, mapped, maintained and patrolled for the safety and enjoyment of all snowmobilers. Riders can greatly reduce their risk of getting into trouble by carefully assessing which trails to ride on, avoiding unavailable trails and not riding off-trail on roads, lakes, unfamiliar terrain and private property.
• Take it easy: Take it easy on every ride by always obeying the laws and always staying to the right of the trail. Each rider should snowmobile with care and control, within their own ability and according to current trail and weather conditions.
• Slow down at night: Darkness reduces visibility and alters perceptions, so riders must ride even more cautiously at night and never outrun their sled headlights.
• Know before you go: No ice travel is completely safe. Hypothermia or drowning from riding into open water or falling through the ice are serious risks, as are collisions with fixed objects such as docks, ice huts or shorelines.
• See and be seen: Good judgment, depth perception and quick reaction time depend on being able to see properly at all times. Slow down and keep right in reduced visibility situations like snow dust, sun glare, heavy falling snow, or when visor or glasses are fogged. Always wear bright colours and reflective materials so others can see you more easily.
• Ride with companions: Never snowmobile alone. Riding buddies can provide immediate assistance for breakdowns, when getting stuck or in emergency situations.
• Be prepared: Snowmobiling incidents occur in unpredictable and uncontrolled natural settings where each rider needs to always expect the unexpected. Snowmobiling can take you far away from emergency assistance, so each rider must be prepared by carrying a tool kit, spare parts, flashlight, first-aid kit and survival items such as high-energy food, fire-starting equipment and a compass.