Three snowmobile riders dead so far this winter in Minnesota

State officials say death toll has been rising the last few years.

Posted: Dec 20, 2019 10:36 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. - With three deaths so far this winter, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging all snowmobile riders to make safety a priority.

The DNR says 10 riders died in snowmobile-related crashes in 2018-2019, five died the winter before that, and three were killed the winter before that.

“We want people enjoying the Minnesota winter, but we want them to do it safely,” said Bruce Lawrence, recreational vehicle coordinator with the DNR’s Enforcement Division.

Lawrence offers the following tips to ensure a safe ride:

• Stay on marked trails. The state’s snowmobile clubs work hard to keep trails in good riding condition. Riders who stay on groomed trails are less likely to strike an obstacle or trespass onto private property. In parts of the state, wet conditions where trails go through low areas or across lakes mean trails aren’t yet groomed. Riders should plan ahead and check trail conditions before heading out.

• Leave the booze at home. Drinking and riding is one of two main factors in crashes, and plays a role in about 60 percent of those that are fatal.

• Watch the speed. Going too fast is the other main factor in crashes. Many serious and fatal crashes occur when a speeding snowmobiler loses control or strikes an object.

• Be careful on the ice. During the past two winters, every through-the-ice fatality but one has involved people who were riding a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle when they fell through. There must be at least 5 to 7 inches of new, clear ice to support the weight of a snowmobile and rider.

• Take a snowmobile safety course. It’s required of anyone born after 1976 and recommended for everyone. People with snowmobile safety certification are less likely to be involved in serious or fatal crashes.

“Passing along your passion for the outdoors is one of the greatest gifts you can give another person,” says Lawrence. “By modeling safe behavior, you can ensure that passion lives on in youngsters and new snowmobile riders.”

Additional safety tips can be found here.

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