With plenty of snow and warmer temperatures for January, many people are heading out on their snowmobiles for some fun.
Since Snowmobile Safety Week is Jan. 19-25 Jennie Knudsen, an acquired brain injury education and prevention co-ordinator with the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region shared some tips on how to keep safe while enjoying the hobby.
“No. 1 I would recommend, it is the law for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1989, they are required to take the Snowmobile Safety Course, which is available through the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association,” Knudsen said.
The course is available in two different formats, either online at www.sasksnow.com or in a classroom setting. Those interested can call 1-800-499-7533 to register.
In addition, those who do not have a valid driver’s licence of are under 16 years old should be riding with someone with a valid driver’s licence.
“Beyond that is just using common sense,” Knudsen said about many of the other tips.
She said when heading out, make sure you are always with someone else and tell someone who is not going out with you your plan of where you are going and how long you are going to be.
“That way if you don’t return at a certain time, people will know where to go look for you,” Knudsen said.
Having someone with will also guarantee if there is an emergency, someone else is there to help or go get help.
“Another thing is if you are not sure of the area you are in or are going on a new trail, make sure you take precautions,” Knudsen said. “Take it a little bit easier because you don’t know what is coming up.”
An extremely important tip to remember is not to drink and ride, Knudsen said. It is the same as drinking and driving a vehicle.
“Alcohol is the cause of about 70 per cent of incidents that happen on snowmobiles,” Knudsen said.
Using groomed snowmobile trails is another way to prevent incidents, she said. There are more than 10,000 kilometres of groomed trails in Saskatchewan.
“Make sure you are careful when crossing roads,” Knudsen said. “Make sure you come to a complete stop as well as following the speed limit on trails for snowmobiles.”
The speed limit for snowmobiles in the province is 80 kilometres an hour.
Personal protection is also important, Knudsen said. In order to keep yourself safe, check weather and ice conditions before going out.
“We have already heard of one death that has happened in our province already this year from somebody going through the ice,” Knudsen said. “The ice depth should be at least 12 centimetres thick to go on with a snowmobile. That is something important to know if you are going out riding on an ice surface.”
Since the weather during snowmobile season is generally below zero, it is important to dress warm and wear protective gear including a properly fitting helmet.
“It is important to choose a helmet that fits comfortably and securely and does not move after it has been fastened,” Knudsen said. “Make sure the helmet still fits properly over top of any additional headwear.”
Knudsen explained brain injuries are very serious and unlike other parts of the human body, the brain cannot heal itself.
“A helmet essentially protects your head and brain to reduce the chance of injury or even death,” Knudsen said. “Many types of brain injury leave you with lifelong impairments such as personality change or having to learn how to walk or talk again.”
It is important that everyone follows these snowmobile safety tips and stays safe when out on the trails.
“The more education and awareness people have, the less injuries and fatalities we will have as well as the more enjoyable it will be as a sport.”