SPRINGFIELD – As the snow begins to fall through out the state this winter, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is reminding snowmobile enthusiasts keep safety in mind before, during and after a ride.
“Snowmobiling is a safe sport, if done properly and with respect,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. “Considerable snowfall near the end of the 2006-2007 snowmobile season resulted in increased activity and an increased number of accidents. Last year, three of the 19 reported snowmobile accidents resulted in fatalities.”
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.
While 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 DNR in order to operate a snowmobile alone. For snowmobile safety information or a list of upcoming snowmobile classes, see www.dnr.state.il.us/safety/snowmobile.htm.
Current snowmobile safety education courses require students attend an eight-hour class where certified instructors teach basic safety principles, maintenance, operation, winter survival, regulations and a proper attitude of respect for the student's fellow person and the environment.
Basic safety tips for safe snowmobiling:
• Know your equipment and make sure that equipment is in proper working order.
• Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling like a full-size helmet, goggles, or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice chips, and flying debris.
• Avoid wearing long scarves. They may get caught in moving parts of the snowmobile.
• Know the terrain you are going to ride. If unfamiliar to you, 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.
*Reminder to riders and hikers: A minimum of 4 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. For a list of site offices please visit the IDRN website at www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/PARKS/index.htm.
Portions of the I&M Canal snowmobile trail remains closed due to a washout. The 5-mile section of trail between Buffalo Rock State Park (Ottawa) and Utica is closed as is the 5 mile section from 5-Mile Bridge near Morris to Seneca. Ignoring these closures can result in a minimum $75 fine and possible arrest.