At least 3 fatal snowmobile crashes and a number of snowmobile related injuries has law enforcement in the North Country and right here in Oneida County frustrated. They held a snowmobile safety press conference just last week, but the message doesn’t appear to be getting through. Speed and conditions are to blame, but Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol thinks it’s partially due to the machines.
"High end suspension, heated seats, heated handle bars, all that stuff, you feel like you’re going about 40 when in essence you’re going you know 75 or 80, so you have to know your machine, you have to know the trail conditions."
Sgt. Matthew Bauer patrols the trails in Oneida County and tells us how you have to be particularly careful this time of the year.
"Water hazards, earth embankment hazards, just general hazards that may appear on the trails. As we all know the trail conditions can change based on weather. There’s a lot of ice, and that drastically reduces your braking ability, and also your steering ability, and it’s my understanding that that’s been a major factor in some of the fatalities and accidents that have occurred already this year."
The weather conditions have made for icy spots, and that’s why Sheriff Maciol says it’s so important to watch your speed.
"The most common snowmobile accidents that we see time and time and time again are when people are attempting to stop, they get ejected from the sleds, and they get thrown into a tree."
In addition to knowing the trail conditions, you should also dress appropriately, wear protective gear, carry a first aid and emergency repair kit, and know your machine before you head out. Also avoid frozen rivers and lakes. Never ride alone. Always ride with a buddy in case you run into any problems on the trail. Snowmobile clubs are recommending a snowmobile safety course. The courses are free, so make arrangements to take a class so you don’t have to make funeral arrangements.
Check out the New York Parks and Recreation website for a list of classes in your area.