DNR gives safety reminders as snowmobiling fatalities rise

Brittney Merlot
Updated: February 22, 2021 07:54 PM
Created: February 22, 2021 07:01 PM

DULUTH, Minn. -- Just last weekend, Minnesota has its first snowmobiling fatality of the year. Compared to this time last year, the state was at 7 deaths. The Department of Natural Resources gives us tips on how to stay safe out on the trails.

Just when you think it will never happen, it does. Chad Peterson of Duluth has been snowmobiling his entire life. He's logged around 1,000 miles on his sled so far this season and last night, he got into an accident.

"It happened so fast, I hit a fence, it threw my sled sideways and I went flying off." explained Peterson.

Luckily he flew into open snow and wasn't hurt... But that accident changed the way Peterson will ride from now on.

"I highly recommend that you do not drink and ride. Because it's dangerous. My advice would be to drink pop or hot chocolate and don't touch the alcohol when you are riding one of these. I won't ever do it again, I'll tell you that right now. I'm lucky." said Peterson.

The DNR reports three main causes: speed, alcohol and operator inexperience.

Wisconsin DNR Recreation Warden Jacob Holsclaw goes to the scenes of these accidents, taking pictures, measurement and investigates the scene to see what caused it.

"When I am going up to a scene, it's very sad, very heartbreaking for family and friends. And it could have been prevented. I look at all of these crashes and if someone had just been more careful or more cognitive of their surroundings or not been under the influence of alcohol at the time, they would of likely come away and not crashed, or at least not as serious of a crash." said Holsclaw.

So far the state of Wisconsin is reporting 10 fatalities since January and 4 of them were just in Iron County alone. This is not including serious crashes and injuries that send people to the hospital, fighting for their lives. 

"There are very few incidents where alcohol and speed are not a factor. I just think that if you take those two things off the table, a lot of these could be prevented. So that's the first thing that comes to my mind, is that it's sad, we don't want this to happen. That's why I and other wardens and law enforcement agencies are really hitting it hard this year with enforcement, we're trying to get out there and keep people safe." explained Holsclaw.

That involves writing citations and even arrests - but it's all to help keep the trails safe for everyone to enjoy. 

"Wait to celebrate and have a couple drinks, after you are done for the day. Sled all day, have a great time! Once you are back at the house, the cabin, or hotel room, that's the time to kick back a have a couple cold ones and relax." said Holsclaw.

Remember it’s just like driving a car, a .08% or over will get you in trouble and also speeding after dark.

"One thing at night in particular is to really watch your speed, because it's really easy to overdrive your headlights. If you are going too fast, by the time something appears in your headlights, you are not going to be able to react before you are right on top of it." explained Joe Albert the Communications Coordinator for the Minnesota DNR Enforcement Division.

Keep in mind the one fatality in Minnesota this year, happened at 11:15 at night.

"It's been a busy season out on the trail and if we get more snow it will probably just continue that way and we just ask people to be safe and have fun!" said Albert.

The DNR also wants to remind you to stay on the right side of trails and if you're on the water, ice is never 100% safe, you need to check it for yourself and also wear a flotation device in case you do break through. Also make sure to always have a phone on you, so you can call for help.

Credits

Brittney Merlot

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