By the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the HDN
The number of fatal snowmobile accidents was up significantly last winter. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks trails program specialist Ray Paige urges snowmobile riders to be extra cautious this year.
"Last year was a tragic time for the snowmobile-riding community with the loss of 13 riders," Paige said. "These tragedies, which occurred for a variety of reasons, have made everyone stop and think more carefully about snowmobile safety."
Nine of the fatalities occurred as the result of avalanches.
"Recently the Montana Snowmobile Association adopted a position of zero tolerance for alcohol before or while riding a snowmobile," Paige said. "A zero tolerance campaign like this one can increase awareness and peer pressure and hopefully change the behavior of those who take these risks."
FWP offers a free snowmobile instructor safety course each year to help prepare instructors to teach the Montana snowmobile safety course in their local communities. To register for this year's course, in Kalispell Dec. 7-8, call 406-444-7317.
FWP and the Montana Snowmobile Association also work together to reach snowmobile riders with safety messages in other ways, like public service announcements.
"At this point everyone in the snowmobile riding community is working together to make safety a high priority," Paige said.
Safety suggestions include:
Keep your machine well maintained and serviced regularly;
Always check local weather conditions;
Avoid riding in areas prone to avalanches;
Always dress appropriately and bring adequate survival supplies;
Slow down when night riding;
Respect private property;
Cross roads with care;
Avoid riding alone.