In 2012, there were more than 140 reported snowmobile accidents and 20 fatalities in the state of Wisconsin. In addition, there were hundreds more accidents and “close calls” that were not reported to authorities.
“Snowmobiles and ATVs are part of Wisconsin’s great outdoor recreational culture and we want to preserve that heritage, while keeping drivers and riders safe,” Ron Von Haden CIC, executive vice president of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (PIAW), said.
According to the Wisconsin DNR, speed (70 percent) and alcohol (65 percent) are the biggest contributing factors in snowmobile crashes and fatalities.
“Clearly, one of the biggest safety factors is not to drink before heading to your favorite trail,” Von Haden noted.
The following are seven safety tips to help keep drivers/riders safe:
• Slow down. Drivers need to allow for reaction time to unexpected obstacles hidden by trees or snow. Drive at moderate speeds, and drive defensively, especially after sunset, as it is easy to override your headlights.
• Carry a first-aid kit. In addition to bandages and other medical equipment, your first-aid kit should include a flashlight, knife, compass, map and waterproof matches.
• Dress appropriately. Always wear a helmet with goggles or a face shield to prevent injuries from twigs and flying debris. Wear layers of water-repellent clothing and make sure you have no loose ends that might tangle in equipment.
• Consider participating in a snowmobile safety course. Courses are particularly useful for younger drivers/riders or anyone who is new to the sport.
• Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness or water currents. Rapidly changing weather and moving water in streams and lake inlets affect the thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent thick, strong ice from forming.
• Stay on marked trails or, where allowed, on the right shoulder of the road. Be alert for fences, tree stumps and stretched wire that may be concealed by snow.
• Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in personal injury. The most dangerous situations occur when a person is injured and alone. If you must travel alone, tell someone your destination, planned route, and when you will return. Be sure and carry a cell phone with you.
“Another key tip for snowmobilers is to have the correct insurance coverage,” Von Haden says.
A standard homeowners or auto policy may not adequately cover a snowmobile. Some policies also provide options to cover safety apparel, equipment, medical payments and more.
“Having adequate collision and liability insurance is especially crucial should you or a family member become involved in an accident,” he notes.
Your professional independent insurance agent can discuss the benefits and costs of snowmobile/ATV insurance endorsements so you can determine what coverages are right to protect you and your family.”
For more information or to locate a PIAW member near you, look for the PIAW logo or visit www.PIAW.org.