SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding snowmobile operators and riders to take extra caution this year when the snow begins to fall in Illinois. Every year throughout the state, people are seriously injured or lose their lives on snowmobiles. Many of these accidents could have been prevented had proper precautions been taken and common sense been used.
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.
Last season (2010-2011) in Illinois, 47 reported snowmobile accidents resulted in 1 fatality.
“Snowmobiling is a fun activity for thousands of people in Illinois each year, but that fun can be quickly eclipsed if safety isn’t the top priority,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “If you are planning to snowmobile this season but haven’t yet taken a safety course, there are new opportunities to do so in 2012.”
Starting in 2012, two new online snowmobile safety courses will be available the public to become familiar with safe sledding practices or to refresh themselves on staying safe. Individuals will be able to earn legal safety certification through either www.snowmobilecourse.com or www.snowmobile-ed.com. Both companies charge a fee of $29.50 to complete their course.
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 IDNR in order to operate a snowmobile alone.
The IDNR continues to offer free traditional classroom safety classes though most have taken place for this season.
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.
• Travel at a reasonable rate of speed for your visibility conditions.
Snowmobile accidents/fatalities by year
Year Reported Accidents Fatalities
2007-2008 66 accidents reported 7 fatals
2008-2009 39 accidents reported 3 fatals
2009-2010 37 accidents reported 1 fatal
*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. Ignoring these closures can result in a minimum $75 fine and possible arrest. For a list of site offices please visit the IDNR website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/