Stay safe snowmobiling

Another snowmobile season is here, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging snowmobilers to enjoy their sport safely. Experts’ safety tips include:

• Take a safety training course. To legally ride a snowmobile, state residents born after Dec. 31, 1976 need a valid snowmobile safety certificate. Youth ages 11-15 are eligible to complete the course. Certification becomes valid at age 12. A person may not operate a snowmobile on a state or grant-in-aid snowmobile trail unless a snowmobile state trail sticker is affixed to the snowmobile.

• Ride at a safe speed. The maximum speed allowed in Minnesota is 50 mph, but many times trail conditions or riding at night requires slower speeds.

• Slow down, especially at night. Over-riding the range of headlights is a major cause of crashes.

• Don’t drink alcohol; it’s a major factor in most crashes.

• Display current snowmobile registration.

• Be cautious about hidden dangers, especially when operating in a road right-of-way. These include silt fences, soil stockpiles, pieces of unused concrete culvert, wooden survey stakes and steel right-of-way markers, which may remain in winter months after construction activities cease. Also, watch for sedimentation ponds, brush piles and scattered rocks that might be obscured by snow.

• Stay off the roadway, shoulder and slope of state and county highways.

• Operate snowmobiles in the same direction as highway traffic when riding during the time from one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.

• Stay off the median in four-lane highways.

• Come to a complete stop and look both ways before crossing a public roadway.

• Cross public roadways at a 90-degree angle.

• Check local ordinances on when and where you may ride.

• Stay on marked trails. The future of the trail system depends on it.

• A person under age 14, without a snowmobile safety certificate, may operate a snowmobile when supervised or accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or other person 18 years old or older designated by the parent or guardian.

• Remember, ice is never safe.

• Never ride alone.

• Make sure your machine is in proper operating condition.

• Join a snowmobile club.

For a copy of the DNR’s 2005-06 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules and Regulations handbook, call 296-6157.

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