There have been 14 fatalities among snowmobilers statewide this winter – a total Wisconsin’s snowmobile safety administrator says is 14 too many.
“We’d like to work together, concentrate on being as safe as possible while enjoying what’s left of our snowmobile season,” Conservation Warden and Snowmobile Safety Administrator Gary Eddy says. “Speed, alcohol and night-time operation are the three most common factors with our fatal accidents.”
Eddy says there were 10 snowmobile fatalities for all of the 2011-12 season, which was nearly non-existent in a large part of the state area due to a lack of snow. Some parts of Wisconsin are poised to get more snow as storms move into the Midwest for the weekend and the coming week.
The latest two deaths occurred sometime last night or early this morning in Lake Superior. Ashland-based Warden Supervisor Dave Oginski said the two snowmobilers failed to arrive at Madeline Island after leaving Bayfield. The bodies were recovered in the South Channel of Lake Superior.
Added to the risk factors for snowmobilers is the seasonal temperature fluctuation, which brings changing ice conditions.
“Ice conditions will begin to deteriorate rapidly,” Eddy says. “Snowmobilers will need to exercise a high degree of caution if operating on late-season ice. The best choice is to stay off the ice altogether.”
Eddy encourages all to:
- Ride with a safety mindset
- Slow down
- Ride under control
- Practice “Zero Alcohol” — that means refraining from drinking any alcohol until you’re home and done riding for the day.
- Take a safety course. Snowmobile safety certification is required of all operators at least age 12 and born on or after January 1, 1985.
Wisconsin is big for snowmobiling. On average, Wisconsin registers 220,000 snowmobiles and sells more than 20,000 non-resident trail passes.
“Snowmobiling is a great winter activity and we want people to ride safe so that they can come home to their families and ride again,” Eddy says.