COLUMN: Lyle Karasiuk — Jan. 16, 2014

Lyle Karasiuk
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It’s winter across Saskatchewan when many people jump on their sleds for an afternoon with friends touring the countryside.

With many trails and open spaces there is always an opportunity to enjoy the crisp fresh air! While driving home from Saskatoon this past weekend there were quite a number of snowmobiles out along the highway.

When riding a snowmobile, always be alert of potential danger. Your helmet and engine noise can impair your hearing. Visibility is also reduced in conditions of snowfall, blowing snow and night driving. Never assume what another snowmobiler will do. Do all that you can to ensure your safety and that of other riders. Expect the unexpected!

Watch out for:

• Thin ice and open water

• Grooming equipment (if on trails)

• Oncoming snowmobiles

• Unforeseen obstacles beneath snow

• Unexpected corners, intersections and stops

• Road and railway crossings

• Logging/Forestry operations

• Snow banks and drifting snow

• Trees and branches on the trail

• Bridges and approaches

• Wildlife and domestic animals

• Other trail users (skiers, hikers)

 

Don't drink and drive

• Snowmobiling requires alertness, caution and attention. Your reaction time and ability to control your sled can be drastically affected after consuming even small amounts of alcohol. Alcohol can affect perception, reaction time, and response to unexpected situations. Alcohol is involved in over 70% of snowmobiling fatalities.

• Alcohol increases your susceptibility to cold and hypothermia. Snowmobilers often have access to remote locations miles away from help. If a situation should occur where help is needed, your chances of survival and treatment of injury can be greatly affected. Don't let alcohol be a contributing factor to your fate.

 

Night riding

• A disproportionate number of snowmobiling incidents, including nine out of 10 fatalities, occurs after dark. Forward visibility is reduced by darkness and it is much more difficult to spot and identify potential hazards in time. Overdriving headlights can also be a serious problem, so slow down when snowmobiling after dark.

Becoming disoriented or lost is much more likely at night. Ride with individuals familiar with the area. Always wear outer clothing with reflective trim on the arms, back and helmet.

Never ride alone at night. Always dress in your full snowmobiling outfit even if your intended destination is just next door.

Be certain that all lights are operational and keep in mind that hand signals become increasingly more difficult to see as darkness sets in.

 

Ice Riding

• Drowning is one of the leading causes of snowmobile fatalities. Wherever possible, avoid riding on frozen lakes and rivers because ice conditions are never guaranteed. Ice conditions can change in a period of several hours. If you must cross ice, ask first, and then stay on the packed or marked trail. Don't stop until you reach shore. If you hit slush, don't let off the throttle. If you are following someone who hits slush, veer off to make your own path. If you must travel over lakes and rivers then consider using a buoyant snowmobile suit that will assist you to reach the closest ice surface. Also consider carrying a set of picks that will help you grip the edge of the ice more easily. As a rule of thumb, "If you don't know, don't go."

Enjoy winter and don’t forget to dress for the cold. Be prepared for other emergencies by having a first aid kit and repair kit with you. Take a first aid course to know what to do in any emergency. Getting your standard first aid is now really quite easy with the Red Cross Blended eLearning course. Let’s us show you how!

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

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