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Snowmobile, ORV safety

January 3, 2012
The Daily News

A Wisconsin teen was injured Sunday in a snowmobile accident in western Iron County.

The accident occurred on Trail No. 2, just east of Forest Highway 16. A 15-year-old boy from Wisconsin was operating a snowmobile when he failed to negotiate a curve, lost control, and left the trail.

He was ejected from the machine before it struck a tree. He was treated at Northstar Health System in Iron River for a leg injury.

It could have been worse.

Every year, scores of snowmobile riders are severely injured or killed while enjoying their sport.

Winter is a beautiful time to experience Michigan's outdoors.

Whether riding a portion of Michigan's groomed snowmobile trails or riding an off-road vehicle (ORV) to a favorite remote ice fishing hole, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds riders to always exercise safety.

With more than 6,200 miles of designated groomed snowmobile trails located throughout state and federal forests, and many acres of privately owned lands, Michigan is one of the top snowmobiling destinations in North America.

While the DNR does not recommend that riders operate on the ice, Michigan's 11,000-plus lakes also tempt operators to ride on the frozen surfaces.

"With Michigan's riding opportunities also comes inherent risks associated with motorsports," said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR's Law Enforcement Division.

"It is each rider's responsibility to ensure their safety and the safety of their passengers and bystanders," Hagler said in a statement.

There are several common factors with snowmobile and ORV accidents in Michigan.

The DNR urges snowmobilers and ORV operators to take simple precautions this winter season.

Excessive speed, alcohol use, inexperience, failure to wear helmets, operating on roadways and unfamiliarity with terrain are some of the most common factors involved in accidents.

Many fatal accidents have one or more common factors as contributing causes.

Snowmobilers and ORV operators are reminded to:

- Never operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

- Slow down.

- Wear safety equipment such as a helmet, eye protection, protective clothing and insulated boots and gloves.

- Always operate with the flow of traffic and stay as far to the right side of any legal road or trail.

- Always keep a machine in top mechanical condition.

- Never ride alone and always leave a travel plan with someone.

- Avoid, when possible, operating on frozen bodies of water.

- Avoid operating in a single file when operating on frozen bodies of water.

- Wear a winter flotation suit whenever operating on the frozen surfaces of water

- Always be alert and avoid fences and low strung wires.

- Always look for depressions in terrain.

- Only carry passengers when the machine is designed to do so

- Ensure that headlights and tail lights are on at all times.

- When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise up off the seat and look for on-coming traffic.

- Always check the weather conditions before departure.

- Bring a cell phone and other basic safety gear (something to start a fire with, rescue throw rope, self-rescue ice spikes, tow strap, flashlight, compass, blanket, etc.)

"Operators should respect the speeds that snowmobiles and ORVs are capable of attaining, and the demands that operating over snow and ice pose," Hagler said.

"Safety education is a crucial factor in safe and responsible snowmobile and ORV operation," he said. "Safety education is required for youths and highly recommended for all others."

Persons interested in finding a safety course, go online to and click on the "Education & Outreach" menu and then select Hunter Education & Recreational Safety Classes.

Safety training classes are offered in a classroom setting and some are available online.

Stay safe and enjoy your winter sport.



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