Snowmobiling is a favorite winter activity of many central New Yorkers. New York boasts over 10,000 miles of funded or groomed trails, many of which are located in Onondaga, Oswego, Cayuga, Seneca, Wayne, and Ontario counties. Sadly, every winter brings new snowmobile fatalities and serious injuries to upstate New Yorkers. Winter has just started and already the snowmobile accidents have begun. Unfortunately, Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn area snowmobile accident lawyers will soon be getting those unsettling calls from the family of those suffering devastating injuries from snowmobile collisions. I just read about an accident this week in Pennsylvania, where a snowmobile collided with a horse and buggy, killing the snowmobiler.
In past years, there have been somewhere between 300 and 400 snowmobile accidents in New York State each year, with about 25 per year being fatal. Unsafe speed is listed as the cause of the majority of snowmobile accidents, and of those, alcohol consumption often plays a role. Most snowmobile collisions are with fixed objects, such as trees, after the operator loses control and leaves the trail, but crashes with other snowmobiles, cars or trucks are not uncommon.
Before you take out your “sled” this winter, make sure you are familiar with New York State laws regulating snowmobiling. If you are going to snowmobile on any property other than your own, you need to register your snowmobile with the Department of Motor Vehicles. You also need to get auto insurance for it. All operators and passengers of snowmobiles are required to wear helmets. Local ordinances might contain additional rules regulating snowmobile use.
Also, make sure you are familiar with safety guidelines for snowmobilers. Here are the key ones:
• SPEED: Always drive at speeds at which you can stop safely if a dangerous object suddenly appears.
• SIGNS: Stick to marked trails; follow the trail signs, and obey speed limit signs.
• ROADS AND CARS: Use extra caution when crossing roads, or when traveling on roads or on shoulders of roads. Motor vehicles should be feared. They are bigger and faster than your snowmobile. Leave plenty of space for them to pass you.
• TRAILS: Some trails are narrow and hard to judge, especially at night. Go slowly on narrow trails so you can react to oncoming riders.
• NIGHT: At night, check your headlights, taillights, and brake lights before you ride. Do not “override” your headlights at night, which means traveling so fast that you pass through the area lit up by your headlights before you can safely stop.
Be safe as you enjoy another central New York “winter wonderland”.